Day 11 – Tain to John O’Groats – c’est fini!

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All (especially Becky’s parents) – we’d like to extend our profuse apologies for any inaccuracies, errors (grammattical, spelling or otherwise), or ommissions from this or the other posts. Any such mistakes are not intended and are purely down to being either very tired, very sore, or (as tonight) very inebriated…

Mike: Slainte!  We made it at 5.50pm today.  And what a day.

(By the way, I found my bike computer buried in my luggage, but have lost my XDA charger…)

The journey from Tain was wonderful, apart from the strong wind coming directly at us.  I was tempted to take a diversion via the Glenmorangie distilliery but it was a wee bit early.  We passed over the bridge of a firth (can’t remember which one) and on we went. 

All was well and we made reasonably good progress initially, then things went slightly pear shaped and our mph gradually dropped to an average of about 11 which was our lowest of the trip.  The wind got stronger and we battled against it.

We had heard that Helmsdale was a “challenge” but that is an understatement, a 13% hill which goes on for quite a few miles, then relaxes to probably about 9% for another few miles.

That was followed by Berrydown, which was worse in some ways as it was even longer. 

From there, there were more hills all of them short down and long up.  We called a halt to the morning at Dunbeath and had 38 miles remaining.

The locals at the diner told us that after the hill out of “town” it was fairly flat (YEAH, RIGHT!)In the afternoon our average picked up a bit and we followed the coastline up hill and down dale.   

We hit Wick about 4pm and stopped for afternoon tea (and cake) with 17 miles left.  Again, everyone told us the remainder was flat – Important lesson – everyone lies!.  Sadly we believed them and set off at a fairly “hasty” paste (20-ish mph) for the first few flat miles but then a few more hills appeared.  Nothing step but quite long and after 80 odd miles, they were not what we wanted.

We stopped a couple of miles outside of John O’Groat’s to make sure we were in our best outfits etc and crusied the last few miles downhill then turned left into the carpark rather than continuing to the official finish line. Ho hum (their fault – should have better signage).  So, a quick about turn and we crossed the finish line, then cycled round in circles and crossed the finish line, then again and again – all for photo’s with different camera’s. 

So that’s it, we made it and we feel ecstatic.  Bring on the next challenge (but wait a few days for the bottom bruising to heal).

Derek: We made it! The feeling of euphoria and relief is fantastic. We don’t really know what to do with ourselves right now. It was great crossing the finish line – even if we did have to do it 4 or 5 times to make sure we got all the photo’s that Becky wanted. 😉 

Mike has covered the route quite well above, but I’d like to add that this section was much much harder than we imagined. On it’s own, it wouldn’t have been too bad – quite a long ride with a few bumps and a few real hills, but given the fact we’d been cycling for 10 days before this, it was really really tough. Mike hurt his knee while going up Helms-deep (new name for Helmsdale), and I could see him cycling with a limp and can empathise from experience how much he must have been hurting.

I’d also like to apologise publicly to Becky for “giving her the finger” while going up Helms-deep. I guess she chose the wrong moment to try to offer to be supportive (I was already swearing to myself at the time). As Mike has already said – this was one nasty hill. Just when you think it’s over, you go around a corner and there’s yet more hill, and even steeper each time. My heart goes out to the people who do this ride solo, with panniers on their bikes – I really don’t know how they do it. 

As a final note for today, I’d just like to mention that this isn’t the end of the blog – I do plan to update it with some pictures, route plans, B&B recommendations/reviews, etc, over the coming week. Sorry we’ve not been able to do this so far, but we’ve been a little busy.

Bex: What an emotional day! The boys were so upbeat at breakfast this morning (boy what a long time ago that feels!) but then they didn’t appreciate the horrors to come. The Support vehicle (aka Mikes company car) had to change from 6th gear right down to 3rd gear to conquer Helmsdale (aka Shrek 3)… Does that give you some clue as to how long and torturous Helmsdale really is.??? I ‘positioned’ myself 3/4 of the way up to offer motivation (big mistake, see above) but hey, it was well meant!

The scenery was stunning, in my view better than Glencoe but the boys didnt get to enjoy it, perhaps tomorrow on the way back home in the car….. 

I would like to thank the lady on the fish counter in the Tesco’s in Wick for an igenious Champagne chilling device – and it didnt even taste fishy!

The end was stunning. Felt really bad that I had fed the boys coconut sponge cake thinking (as told) Wick to J.O.G was flat… Oops! Sorry Guys! Anyway, I tried to motivate the guys on the final hill before JOG and told them it was all down hill after that. I finally lost it (whilst on the phone) as the guys passed the John O’Groats sign and started blubbing like a baby and have an excellent photo of them passing the sign with O2’s proudly displayed on their bottoms, baboon style!!!

I was so proud of them and their spectacular achievement, for those who havent sponsored (I wont name and shame anyone) but please do so, it really is not too late! 

To the next adventure…….. 

Thank You’s: 

Derek – I’d like to thank all the support team (Becky, Jayne, Mike, Phil and Ben & Shannon from Symantec). Without your help, we wouldn’t have been able to make it. You offered much more than just driving and doing errands for us – you were a source of entertainment, relief, inspiration and support. Thank-you all. 

I’d also like to thank Lindsey and her family who have been my inspiration and motivation for finishing this on more than one occassion. My sympathies are with you all for your recent loss.

Also, can I thank the various people that we have encountered on the way – the people that have beeped their horns or cheered in support, the people that have sponsored us on the ride, the other riders we’ve encountered and chatted to. 

Obviously, in true Oscar style, I’d like to thank my mum, dad, family, friends, their pets, etc. 

I’d also like to thanks all those that have supported us and helped us in organising this – especially, O2, Symantec, and Compel.

Finally, my heart-felt thanks have to go to Mike. This adventure was his idea – while at times I might have regretted saying yes (which I did by buying a new bike by the way), we’ve had a great time that I’ll never forget or regret. Without Mike, I know I would have given up long before the end, and it was re-assuring to have him there throughout the ups and downs (no pun intended). His determination and support have been an inspiration to me, and I look forward to our next adventure! 

Mike – For me, thanks go to the support team, all different – all brilliant!  As Derek said, we could not have done this without you, so I will make sure you share the achievement.

Phil – What a character and source of entertainment!  You were an inspiration.

Mike – You surprised me with how tuned in you were. Your calm efficiency was just what I needed.

Jayne – What can I say?  Such a joy.

Becky – Diligence and attention to detail dont cut it!  You were at exactly the right place at exactly the right time! 

Shannon and Ben – You may never know how much we appreciate you taking time out to come to Cornwall and be with us for the big event!

Compel and Symantec need our thanks too – without our their support this adventure would have been personally much more expensive and may not have been possible. 

I’d like to thank O2 also for their support, encouragement and providing us with the excellent XDA Orbit which served as phone, camera and sat-nav.

Thanks also to Steve who was due to ride with us – a chest infection stopped him but he still motivated us to continue in his name. 

Neil deserves some thanks for being mad enough to join us for a little 84 mile ride from Chepstow to Shrewbury – he thought we were lunatics before the morning was over but I think he is converted to the cycling bug.  (London – Paris next year?)

Shelby raised my spirits in Chepstow and I love her dearly.   

Maddy always has my undying love but meeting her on the trip was mind blowing.

Thank you to all friends and family for the support and sponsorship! 

Finally, thank you Derek.  When I suggested doing this I had no concept of what was involved and can honestly say I could not have done this without you.  At least 12 days together, no arguments and still friends!  What more can I say?  You are a star.

Beer of the day: Champagne. Light, bubbly, (in designer tesco carrier bag ice-cooler) need we say more.

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