An adventure is always a journey it has a beginning and an end. How we get to the start and what helps us along the way are often overlooked. Whilst I continue to write about the trip as a whole I thought it appropriate to highlight for me the hero’s that got me there, held up to the abuse and were put through far more than they were ever designed for..
FIRST GROUP (Train to Penance):
Getting on a train with a bike is never a pleasant experience, but I didn’t have a bike and knew a bike reservation would just take up so else’s chance of going away for the weekend so I went for the rock up and be bloody nice! My explanation went something like:
“well it’s not a bike so didn’t want to waste a bike reservation when I could just put it between the resting bikes”
He looked at the bright green scooter, then at me, again at the scooter then into the bike storage area and with a sigh told me to pop it in carefully… With a seat reservation I was soon comfortable, bag stowed nicely above me, yea even with three weeks gear! Window seat, leg room and power socket all huge box ticks. I waited an hour to get settled and for the food cart to open then went for the attack!
I was shocked and could presume people would be disappointed by the perceived “lack of luggage space” on the train. where personally I was amazed by the sheer size and volume of huge, seriously not just 40-50 Litre suitcases but 90-100 litre cases that littered not only the luggage racks at the end of the isles but also the spaces between carriages. For me this only highlighted that societies love of possessions and stuff obviously filters through to them taking way too much “stuff” on holidays, I guess people should take a look at themselves before just being disappointed with rail companies not being able to provide a train to take 500 people and 50’000 Litres of luggage space too boot! That being said, I am saddened by the 500 seats and 4 bike spaces per train, again guess its difficult to react to a sudden new trend with such fixed space….
Overall for all the cyclists I met, First Group had got them to the start point at lands end and that in its self is helping people live a dream which to me is so so important!
No seriously, this wasn’t some mass planned out pre calculated well oiled trip, I knew most of the route, I lived in Bristol for a few years, I grew up in the Midlands and I just like to know the area I live and with Hikebikerun the previous year I knew the road from Fort William down to Manchester way so I pretty much had Bristol to Fort William in my head, but still used google maps as traveling on the national cycle routes was part of the journeys purpose….
Even without reception I could always stumble on WiFi every day or so to update my head with villages and towns I’d be heading through, and respective milages to aim for.. I even started to enjoy the option of following the cycling routes just to see how ridiculous they could be!
I’m generally a huge fan of these, last year I cycled 900 miles without a puncture so to have them on the Scooter I was sure of a good ride..
I did this time suffer one, only one puncture this simply due to me riding in the dusty dirty bits cars don’t use, and on unused pavements and in this case my flat came after over 700 miles of use just as I started and headed towards Fort William. They were also high pressure so helped massively at high speeds and holding pace even if that was only 12-14 MPH.
The B&B woman.
19 days in and I’m suffering from summit fever desperate to finish for Sunday to make it a nice 21 days (three weeks) I’ve 180 miles to go so need to do three big days scooting I kick off from Alltsigh a small YHA right on the edge of loch ness, I have HAVE to make it to Bonar Bridge. I soon depart from the comfort of village and good roads with 40 miles of tranquil emptiness of true highlands to get me to what I hope is a bustling little village, Its not, theres nothing, I have nothing. As always After spending 20 minutes waiting for maps to loads on GPRS I see a B&B a few miles off. I call and as always I get “we have one room left” boom, that’ll do nicely. To cut it short, I was empty hadn’t eaten and was dehydrated, then, THEN she told me she had this coconut stuff she brought by accident and I was welcome to it, out rocks two litres of innocent coconut water (fucking life saver!) hydration and some vitals replaced. Half hour later she offers me eggs on toast (after telling me she doesn’t do meals) I sit down to four eggs on toast, again life saver. The kindness of strangers can change peoples days, lives and outlook on life. Without this kindness I’d have woken up a broken man and might not have finished…
Last but well, its all about the look at me!
The Scooter, From Swifty Scooters was the star of the show. There was no doubt from the owners that the scooter was capable of doing the milage and taking the strain, but these things aren’t ever tested to these limits and over this length of time. I took a took kit with me to make repairs and adjustments needed along the way, all we needed was a brake tightening after two days in Devon & Cornwall and after hitting and having to stop regularly at over 30MPH. I dealt with the off road sections and canal paths and the twisty turns and extra loads of my ruck sack and handle bar bag. I’d love to know just how far these machines could go before failure, but its sure to say they are hugely over engineered for their purpose of urban travel, theres nothing that any city could throw at the that would stop them in there tracks..