From here on in it was pretty damn amazing, if you look at the Strava map you can see once we crested the hill its pretty much downhill all the way to the end point. I left Dad behind and belted my way down the hills singing along to Depeche Mode, Faith No More and Jordan Reyne*. Oddly enough it was at this point I got a bunch of texts from said Jordan so I had the singular delight of returning her call and answering the obvious question: "Half way down a Scottish Mountain! You'd love it here!". That done Dad caught up with me and we both pushed off down the hill again. One corner, then another and we were over the bridge and into Bonchester Bridge itself. Our accommodation for the night was at the Horse and Hounds, we'd had to cut this leg a bit shorter as nearly everything a reasonable distance north was booked out for the Common Ridings.
Morning brought a lot of messing around getting tyres topped up, the car loaded etc. Somebody finally managed to take a photo of us setting off, sadly I don't have access to it at the moment. Eventually we got on our way, David, Andrew and Ian forged ahead I attempted to keep up, Jeff elected to ride with Dad for the morning at least. After a minute my phone went crazy as signal was suddenly restored and texts rained down. Battlesteads has a curiously localised blackout zone that seems to cover the pub and extend around 100ft from it. The wifi there though is solid.
We headed along the Tyne Valley towards the river Kielder. Most of my aches and pains had subsided by now or at least I'd become used to them so I was doing ok keeping up but the view was gorgeous so I stopped to take a few photos and finally managed to catch some action shots of the riders, Dad and Jeff in particular.
After 15 miles we pulled in at the Visitors Center near the Kielder Dam for tea and cake while Dad forged on. Some superb views of the water were to be had even if the weather was somewhat ominous.
Also more doggies:
After refreshments we headed on around the water with Mum and Joanne joining us on the way. The going was pretty easy with only one or two Long Annoying Small Gradients and the views were awesome.
There's plenty of photos to be had because really in many ways this was the easiest day of all. Once we got round the Kielder we pulled off and rolled down a hill to have some proper lunch in a pub below the castle forest centre where we met up with Dad. The pub was quiet and seemed to be mostly filled with dogs. Two of whom were doing some form of dance, they clearly couldn't figure out who was the dominant one as they'd sniff, growl, bark, drop to the floor, roll, get up, rinse, repeat. We watched this while ordering food but left it still going when we went outside to sit with dad. After a while food came in the form of a "beef roll" which appeared to be most of a Sunday roast on a roll not quite quite up to the task. I went back in for a knife and fork, the dogs were still at it. While we polished off our lunches (Ian looking enviously from his soup to my Mega Roll) Mum and Joanne turned up and decided they'd like to go to the actual visitors centre. Ian and I decided to saddle up and get going.
We headed out towards the border across some pretty smooth going though there was a constant drizzle and a lot of encounters with huge logging lorries to contend with. After another 8 miles or so we reached the border. An achievement worth a few photos:
I mused that this is the first time in over a decade I'd crossed the border on the road, the days of the never ending family drives to grandparents long gone. This was certainly the fist time I'd crossed the border on a bike.
After the border there was an exhilarating descent down the fir lined road into an area I can only recall as "Sheepland." A long winding (and downhill as it turns out) route through the farming areas of the Scottish Borders. Signs warned us to beware of "Young lambs" and it was apparent why, the little critters obviously hadn't grown any road sense yet, their parents often chasing them back off the road onto the roadside. There was a dearth of fencing and at one particular moment when I should have been paying attention I nearly drifted off the edge and into a six foot drop to the river.
After some time rolling along false perspectives we caught up with Dad who was looking at this bastard.
A driver helpfully pulled up by us to let us know it "Gets steep from here". We thanked him as best we could. At this point I was feeling pretty worn out, the days and injuries having taken their toll. After a bit of debate I waved Ian and Dad off with the intention of taking a breather, some photos and having my now traditional fag, food and water before attempting the hill. I pottered around a bit and eventually steeled myself for the climb. It seems that nicotine, biscuits and water work wonders because I was able to top the hill only having to walk about 50 yards of it, passing Dad on the way.
At the top I managed to get this of Ian. It's one I particularly like so it's a bit larger than usual:
The Horse and hounds provided the usual necessities of Cider, Beer, Soft Seats and Showers (steam showers!) and we quickly got settled. Due to the aforementioned truncated route it was quite early in the day so I had time to potter around and attempt to upload some photos which didn't work quite as planned. There was a lot of discussion of the route the net day, amoung the longest and hilliest. It would also involve negotiating Edinburgh's roads. The weather didn't look fantastic either... We vowed to arise early as we really did have a time limit, we needed to be there by 15:30 latest for the welcome party.
Eventually we sat down for dinner which was rather nice. Lots of folk took advantage of the fresh fish dishes, Andrew kept asking for haggis that wasn't on our special Malcolm Party menu. I forget what I had but I barely made it to pudding. Ian thanked David, Jeff, Andrew and Malcolm for arranging our accommodation, routemaps, directions and so many other necessary things and offered to get the next round in.
I declined to partake as I was so knackered and I excused myself and made my way to bed, we had a very early start and a long way to go in the morning. It was going to be the last day but I couldn't help feeling on edge, I was tired, I hurt and I wasn't entirely convinced I'd make it.
* If anyone is wondering if I had earphones in, I didn't. I was using my phone gps for navigation and tracking (hence the maps), and it was a simple matter to play stuff through the phone speakers. Antisocial in a bus stop maybe, but on a road when you're whizzing by at 25-40mph I'm fairly sure it ain't that audible to A. N. Pedestrian. Kept me going up hill and down dale anyway.