Day Two: Stoke Climson to Stocklinch

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Up at 6am, porridge with rhubarb and out the door at 7am. Against expectations, we were full of energy and the first 20 miles, which on the profile chart seemed to go up and down like a toast-rack, were good fun and passed relatively easily. Overcast skies and gentle drizzle helped.

We joined the Granite Way at Sourton. Disappointed to discover that it’s not a 10-mile stretch of polished granite work-surface, but I guess also relieved. I didn’t have the tyres for that.

We met four fellow riders in Crediton and were greeted with a little gentle abuse for arriving behind schedule. Harsh, but I would have done the same in their shoes. Ally, Nick, Colin and Jools all had shiny racing bikes and preceded to zip off up the hill out of town, leaving Tom and I behind. Luckily they left in the wrong direction and it took them 10 minutes to catch us up. However, this set the theme for the day, much of which I spent watching the other five disappear up various Devon hills. As I chugged along I had plenty of time to consider why this might be. Are they fitter? Better bikes? More aggressive attitude to hills (certainly true for Tom who is much quicker and more attacking uphill than me)? Their projected distance must account for some of the difference but not much, I fear. I suppose that my old hybrid really isn’t built for boosting up hills, but again, I think that’s only part of the story. Perhaps I should work on my approach to climbing, but I’m pretty sure that to do that at this stage in a  1000mile trip would be foolhardy.

It was good to take in the stretch from Langford to Broadhembury, which is pretty much home territory for me, although it was with regret that I turned away from Honiton where, at this time on a normal Sunday I’d be locking up my bike and meeting Jo for lunch. Instead, today, Jo and Karen, Tom’s wife, were meeting us with a picnic. We waited for about 45 minutes before realising that the shop we were sat across the road from was actually an open tea shop.

When the car, families and picnic arrived it was very welcome but continued the emerging trend of taking a too-big lunch just before the biggest climb of the day. The climb to the top of the Blackdowns was just short enough to keep lunch in its proper place.

From there we skipped over the top, shedding fellow riders as they turned back to Exeter at regular intervals. Down into Somerset and pushing up to Tom’s parents at Stocklinch. Half an hour later I was fast asleep on the landing floor.

176 miles down.

Day One: Land’s End to Stoke Climson

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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?

Off on a bike ride

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So. Tom and I are trying to ride our bikes the length of mainland Britain. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Hopefully i’ll be able to post a few blog entries along the way, but as a starter, here’s a list of links to our planned daily routes:

I hope you’re sitting down as you look at those, and not on a saddle about to come with us, for your sake.

The only way is up, as I believe Yazz and her Plastic Population so memorably said.