Confident and relaxed on the dive down to Penzance, I woke up late, couldn’t find any of the stuff I thought I needed and, rushing to get dressed, eat porridge, get the bike on the car, I left for Land’s End feeling completely unprepared, nervous and strung out, feeling as if six months of training had delivered me to the start line weak and fallible.
After a few photos under the signpost, and much dithering, we set off at 7am. The point of departure, after all this waiting, came quickly. Saying goodbye to Jo was difficult and then, almost unexpectedly, we were just riding our bikes. As it happened, we were riding them down a dead-end in the Land’s End car park, so shortly after the waving and cooing of our launch, we reappeared and sheepishly drifted by the farewell party again, this time in the right direction.
We’re avoiding A-roads wherever we can, and have spent 3 months planning a B-road-or-less route to Scotland, where it seems all the roads are A-roads. Most End-to-Enders aim to get out of Cornwall on the A30, grinding their way up the dual carriageway, hoping not to be clipped by trucks and caravans. The route we took, wending immediately through deserted lanes, was beautiful although disconcerting. Within five minutes it felt as if we were out for any other Saturday ride. It would be several hours before we saw another rider doing the long trip. It was only 20 minutes before we got lost and ended up on our first A-road…
The trip to Fowey was great. Some ups and downs, but all manageable. We took the King Harry Ferry (cheating in my book) and, bizarrely, ended up on the same 50m crossing as the family’s, which was nice. They followed us for the next few miles, sometimes unbeknownst to us, and at least once eliciting one of my fiercest dirty looks as they hung off my back wheel refusing to pass. The sight of a husband’s face turning as he realises he’s just hexed his own wife rather than a random stranger, can’t be pleasant to see.
It was Lifeboat Day in Fowey, which seemed to involve a chap on a tannoy repeatedly shouting “We’re sorry the lifeboat can’t be with us, it’s out on a shout dealing with a fishing boat in distress…”. No-one seemed to mind. We had a great big lunch and then, rather too quickly, began the climb from sea-level to the highest village in Cornwall, which, in 80 degree heat, accounted for most of the last 25 miles. We arrived in Stoke Climson, just 2 miles away from the Devon border, I was out of gas.
Some stretching, some Rego, a protein bar, a very welcome shower, a little hand-washing and a long sit-down with our fine host John and Viv. Crucially, they kicked us of to bed at 9.30.
Other highlights: we saw a man in a mobility scooter speeding along holding a big poodle on a lead. Said poodle was clearly terrified of said mobility scooter and attempting to bolt in the opposite direction whenever it could.
92 miles down. A bunch more to go. Pretty tired. Worried about tomorrow. I’ve been focussing to excess on the moment we get back no the bikes on day 2. I figure if that goes well, we’ll be okay. If not, well, who knows?