Willard & Steve, accompanied by 'scout' in a hired motor home, embarked on their most adventurous cycling trip to date, from Lands End to John O'Groats (LEJOG).

Between 9.50am 20th April and 8.58am 30 April 2011 they succeeded in completing LEJOG, covered 900.18 miles and left a blog along the way which they hoped would make people smile as it did them.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Day 9½: Saturday 30th April 2011: Lybster, Caithness to John O’Groats, Caithness. 30 miles today. 900.18 miles in total.

Departed 6.34am. Finished 8.58am.

Todays route – On A99 Lybster, Wick, John O’Groats.         

No wind. Rolling roads. Not a single steep climb. The end shown on our map.  The smell of success in our nostrils.  We rolled in to John 0’Groats, a crofting hamlet, not to hoards of fans chanting our names but to no-one and the sound of complete silence.  Except perhaps for a sheep baaing.

But the euphoria is inside at a time like that.  We succeeded in completing the route in less than 9 days - in 8 days 23 hours and 8 minutes.

And just so we don’t get too carried away the official record for cycling from Land's End to John o' Groats on a conventional bicycle is 44 hours, 4 minutes and 20 seconds, set by Gethin Butler in 2001.   

Special thanks must go to the following:

Mick Dobie – scout number 1.
Walter Wright – new scout.
Our families for allowing us time to train and take part, although they seemed remarkably happy to see us depart!
The people we met who made us laugh along the way.
Whoever makes Sudocrem.
The Queen for organising the royal wedding during our trip so the whole country can follow our progress.
And everyone who read our blog and left messages of support or disappointment.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Day 9: Royal Wedding Day 29th April 2011: Drumnadrochit, Highlands to Lybster, Caithness. 103 miles today. 870 miles in total to date.

Departed 8.10am. Finished 8.02pm.  Yep, 12 hours!

Todays route – Drumnadrochit, on A833 greeted by a 1 in 15 hill immediately after breakfast up over Meall Gorm which suffered the moorland fire, Lovat Bridge, out of the Highlands into places you only hear about on the shipping forcast, Ross & Cromarty on the A862 to Beauly, Muir of Ord, Dingwall, NCN route 1 through Alnes to lunch at Tain, A9 over Dornock Firth Bridge in Sutherland, Golspie, Brora, into Caithness at Helmsdale, Dunbeath, Lybster.         

A day of grinding. Our direction of travel today was north east.  The wind blew all day from the north east.  As hard a days cycling as we have experienced.  It took us an hour longer than usual to cycle 100 miles despite the fact we are stronger now.  At its peak he wind was blowing us off the road especially on exposed parts which made up a large proportion as we are travelling along a coastal cliff top road.  We witnessed fellow cyclists retire early and hope for better tomorrow and others head inland on alternative routes sheltered from the wind but which will take a day longer.

But we needed to keep going.  We started at Lands End at 9.50am last Thursday 21st April.  Our plan is to complete the final 32 miles to John O’Groats before 9.50am tomorrow Saturday 30th April, so completing LEJOG within 9 days.

Day 8: Thursday 28th April 2011: Bridge of Orchy, Argyle & Bute to Drumnadrochit, Highlands. 92 miles today. 767 miles in total to date.

Apologies for late blog update - no internet connection at Drumnadrochit:

Departed 8.14am. Finished 6.18pm.

Todays route – Bridge of Orchy on A82 over the lunar landscape Rannock Moor, through the Pass of Glencoe into Glen Coe with stunning views, the best of the trip, crossed Loch Leven at Ballachhulish, lunched at Fort William, Caledonian Canal using the Great Glen Way which unfortunately includes a 12 miles stretch from Gairlochy round the north of Loch Lochy like a dry river bed unsuitable for anything other than mountain bikes and walkers so we now have bruises on our bruises and loose fillings in our teeth, Invergarry, Fort Augustus, Invermoriston, Drum Farm (yard) at Drumnadrochit, on the shores of Loch Ness although disappointingly no sign of Nessie.            

New scout cannot cook. And he snores. So last night we made him sleep in a bunk with a wooden shutter, like a large cupboard, so we could get some sleep.
We came upon two female cyclists by the road side this afternoon.  They were awaiting the husband of one who had cycled back to retrieve his sun glasses at the lunch stop, 10 miles back.  He appeared shortly without the sun glasses, then discovered them in his panniers.

Offered assistance to a foreign looking fella who was unable to operate the pay shower this evening. Gave him a thorough explanation in broken English with lots of repetition and hand signals.  He listened intently, nodded and grunted lots.  We concluded by asking if he understood. “Yes I do”.  Ex – cell - ent. Where - are – you - from?” 
We have stalled tonight, being told our road north is temporarily shut for a heather moor fire.  We shall fall asleep to the sounds and smells of the farm and no doubt be woken at dawn by the cockerel.       

Day 9. Plan Dingwall, Alness, Tain, Dornock, Brora, Helmsdale.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Day 7: Wednesday 27th April 2011: Abington, Lanarkshire to Bridge of Orchy, Argyle & Bute. 106 miles today. 675 miles in total to date.

Departed 8.20am. Finished 7.29pm.

Todays route – From Abington, finished the National Cycle Network route 74 through the former mining belt of Lesmahagow, Kirkmuir, Stonehouse, Larkhall, Hamilton, Blantyre, Cambuslang, Rutherglen, stopped to pay homage to Hampden Park football stadium in Glasgow, joined NCN route 4 along River Clyde then Forth & Clyde canal to south end of Loch Lomand, took West Loch Lomand Cycle Path to Tarbet, A82 to Crianlarich, Tyndrum then Bridge of Orchy.       

With heavy hearts we bid farewell to scout, Mick, who must return to home life after 6 days.  We could not have got this far without him. Thank you.  Scout has been replaced by new scout Walter, Willard’s father, who claims to know this part of the world like the back of his hand, somehow.  But can he cook? 
Warm and sunny all day.  Saw the full spectrum that Glasgow has to offer.  No camp sites within 15 miles tonight so new scout obtained permission from an estate owner to park the mobile home in a field by a stream.  Washing ourselves is more testing than the cycling.

Day 8. Plan to cycle over Rannoch Moor to Glen Coe, Fort William then somewhere on the Caledonian Canal.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Day 6: Tuesday 26th April 2011: Crooklands, Cumbria to Abington, Lanarkshire. 112 miles today. 569 miles in total to date.

Departed 8.16am. Finished 8.20pm.

Todays route – A65 to Kendal, struggled into an ice cold north easterly wind on the A6 up to Borrowdale and Shap Fell then down to Penrith, took Roman roads to Carlisle including one 7 mile stretch with not a single bend, did the tourist bit by visiting the Metal Bridge at the former border and the Old Blacksmith’s shop at Gretna Green, Sustrans route 74 through Ecclefecan, Moffat to Abington.       

As Billy Connolly once said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing”.  We set off today in glorious sunshine wearing only shorts and T-shirts.  Rising from Kendal the temperature dropped to 3 degrees and the wind chill caused us to lose the feeling in hands, feet and faces with our bodies using the energy just to keep us warm.  A call to scout in the backup motor home produced our winter clothing and on we went.  Quote of the day comes for the baked potato stall holder in Penrith “It’s all flat from here south, you’ve done the hilly part in Scotland”.           

Day 7. Plan to cycle up the Clyde, along Loch Lomand and on to Rannoch Moor.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Day 5: Easter Monday. 25th April 2011: Bulkeley, Cheshire to Crooklands, south Cumbria. 101 miles today. 457 miles in total to date.

Departed 8.20am. Finished 7.47pm.

Todays route – Bulkeley on A49 past Tarporley, through Cudington, the town of roundabouts Warrington then former mill and mining towns Newton–le-Willows, B5209 throught Orrell, B5206 through Eccleston, Farrington, the former railway line into the riverside park at the town of traffic lights Preston, A6 to Garstang, Park Lane then Garstang Road to Conder Green onto Sustrans route 6 along River Lune estuary to Lancaster then Lancaster canal to Hest Bank, A6 then A6070 to Crooklands. 

The day of no photos.  Even bright sunshine could not make some of the places we passed through look photogenic. In the south Lakes tonight. What a difference.  First man we spoke to at the camp site produced the quote of the day: “I’ve had a very tiring day. Had to put up my awning. Mind, it’s a big bugger.”           

Day 5. Plan to travel through the Lake district and cross the border into bonny Scotland.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Day 4: Easter Sunday 24th April 2011. Monmouth, Wales to Bulkeley, Cheshire. 101 miles today. 355 miles in total to date.

Departed 8.05am. Finished 8.13pm.

Todays route – Monmouth, Hereford, Leominster, Ludlow, across Corvedale onto the Shropshire Hills, Church Stretton, Shrewsbury, Wem, Whitchurch, Bulkeley or more specifically a farmer’s field nine miles north of Whitchurch sniffed out by scout when all camp sites were full and made available in return for ten pieces of silver.

The day of five counties – Monmouthshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire.  Another sunny day cycling into a brisk northerly wind and chilly for the last 2 hours.  Quote of the day; “I’ve spent 8 hours trying to keep up all day, how do you expect me to put in another 10% now?”        

Day 5. Plan to cross Cheshire and Lancashire into Cumbria.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Day 3: Saturday 23rd April 2011. Wellington, Somerset to Monmouth, Wales. 101 miles today. 253 miles in total to date.

Departed almost an hour earlier at 8.16am. Finished 8.02pm.

Todays route – Wellington to Taunton on Sustrans route 4 along the Bridgewater & Taunton canal to Bridgewater, along Roman Causeways to Axbridge (3 miles from Cheddar), up along the Strawberry Line using the former Cheddar Valley Railway route to Yatton, Sustrans route 26 via Clevedon and Avonmouth Bridge then Severn Road Bridge to Chepstow in Wales and up the Wye Valley through Tintern to Monmouth.

We’re sun tanned now. A lovely sunny day from dawn till dusk.  We think Somerset is beautiful particularly because it is as flat as a pancake.  It is rightly known as the Somerset Flats and it allowed us to get back some of the miles we lost on the Devon hills.  Crossing the Rivers Avon and Severn by bike provided stunning panoramic views and Tintern Abbey was breathtaking.     

Day 4. Plan to travel on roman roads straight north though Herefordshire, Shropshire and Staffordshire.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Day 2: Good Friday 22nd April 2011. Doublebois, Cornwall to Wellington on the Devon - Somerset border. 81 miles today. 153 miles in total to date.

Departed 9.02am into an easterly head wind but weaker than yesterday. Finished 7.34pm.

Todays route – Doublebois, Liskeard, Callington, Tavistock, up Pork Hill onto Dartmoor National Park, Two Bridges, Postbridge, lunched next to Warren House and Steve suffered the first puncture of the trip, down off Dartmoor to Cheriton Cross, Crediton, Tiverton, along Grand Western Canal to camp site found by scout Mick.

And we though Cornwall was hilly.  Devon is much hillier.  The roads don’t run along valley bottoms but instead up one side of the hill then straight down the other side, then repeat for 34 times.  We now understand what past LEJOGers meant when they said that Cornwall and Devon are a tough start and quite possibly the hardest riding of the whole trip.  Lets hope so.

Day 3. Plan to cross Somerset into Wales.

Day 1: Thursday 21st April 2011. Lands End to Doublebois (2 miles east of Liskeard), Cornwall. 72 miles.

Departed 9.50am into a stiff easterly, yes easterly, head wind.  The first easterly wind at Lands End since records began.  Only the strength of our personalities saw us through; and the sun. Finished 7.24pm.

Todays route – Lands End, Penzance, across the peninsula to north coast at Hayle, across Withian, into Portreath, back across the peninsula via Chasewater, down the old Mineral Tramway into Truro, up to Probus, Grampound, St Austell, Sustrans route 3 south of Eden Project to St Blazey, up to Doublebois.

Staying overnight near St Neots on Bodmin Moor.  We thought it would be very restful. And then guess who appeared?  No, not Bradley Wiggins.  Neil Morrissey of Men Behaving Badly fame.  

Cornwall has lots of hills.  The headwind just made them more challenging.  Expect there will be more tomorrow.

Day 2. Plan to cross Dartmoor.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Wednesday 20th April 2011. Church Cottage Penryn

Arrived at Mick's cottage in Penryn at 7.30pm - roads clear all the way.

Acclimitised tonight to the Cornwall latitude with a walk along the river Fal with Max the labrador after carbo loading on tuna and pasta bake courtesy of ASDA.

Firs night in the motorhome in St Gluvias church car park, next to the graveyard (on an incline), Willard a bit worried about getting the willies !

Willard, Steve, Mick & Max.

Wednesday 20th April 2011 - 9am: Southbound !

Departure day has finally arrived & we are loaded up & departing Newcastle to collect or motorhome.

Had we been cycling around the world we would have needed a trailer to accommodate all the equipment !

Willard & Steve