Having set my alarm for "obscenely early" I got off to a good start by locking myself out of the pub while having my morning cigarette. In fact I hadn't locked myself out it just needed a "bloody good shove", having broken things before when assuming this I was glad my Dad let me in. Things rapidly improved when haggis was served with my cooked breakfast.
Dad set off first with Jeff at 8 determined to set a good pace so they'd get in before the 15:30 deadline. David followed them not long after, Andrew and Malcolm next and to no-one's surprise Ian and I last. I think we were all gone by 8:45 though.
In store for us was ~60 mile ride over some of the hilliest terrain we'd encountered and the weather forecast wasn't promising but to start with it was dry at least.
We started off pretty well with a small steep climb followed by a rapid descent however my tendon was not feeling happy about this and neither were my thighs. I called a stop in Denholm with Ian and told him that I was pretty uncertain about making it to the end, so if it didn't improve, especially as we reached the climbs, he should go-on and I'd call for a pickup. Ian gave me a quick pep-talk and we agreed to do the first climb and review. We saddled up (after I got some cash and fags from the post-office) and headed out of Denholm down the B6405 towards Hassendean. From there we turned north-west on the B6350 and followed it for quite some time. The views, as you might expect were incredible, but due to the tight schedule there was little time for photographs. I did get this as we cycled parallel to the A7, if you look closely you can just make out the Wind power generator between the hills:
Some of the terrain en-route was actually impassable, marked as paths on the map they turned out to be rough farmland tracks suitable for MTB's, JCB's and other large-wheeled TLA's, certainly not road cycles.
At around 27 miles and 12:00pm we reached the cloud cafe in Townfoot. The cafe is a quirky place, and the toilets have a sheets listing town records concerning the Railway that used to run by. Much talk of Navvies raiding pubs and holding the landlord and daughters hostage for "meat and ale". There's also an interesting bit of recycling in the form of the toilet door:
The route was multiple-choice depending on how you approached Edinburgh and what you did once you got there. Pre-Edinburgh it boiled down to how long you stayed on the A7. The high road was a bunch of side roads and paths parallel to the A7 much as we had been on earlier, the low was the A7 itself which was likely to be very busy, especially closer to Edinburgh. As we turned out of Townfoot and onto the A road it started to rain, then as lorries thundered passed on corners with scant passing space it *really* began to rain. Ian remembered to ask about my foot sometime around here, I'd also forgotten about it, the concept of stopping now was so repugnant that even if I had been in pain I'd have probably continued.
We plunged on down the road making excellent time on the relatively good surface and once the traffic thinned out it was a pretty pleasant ride if you don't count the torrential rain, the wind, the hills etc... At some point Ian pulled in and we jumped into a bus shelter. Witness the condition we were in:
We realised we'd missed the turning for the quieter route off the A7 and decided to press on. We made a few phone calls and checked our distance, as my social media puts it:
Which is the last time my phone was accessible until we arrived. At some point it froze on the lock screen and would not reopen. Ian's also died along the way.
We mounted up and cycled as fast as we could manage until it was time to get off the A7. We got separated around Gorebridge and eventually reunited and then joined the Edinburgh cycle path. By this point we were both soaked through and couldn't feel our feet. They cycle path started off very well but rapidly became over grown, ill-signposted and confusing. At one point the sign posts indicated we 12 miles to go then 5 then 8. We got a bit fed up when it seemed as if we had been victim to some prankster moving directions around but shortly afterwards we emerged outside Ian's old halls of residence. We were almost there, we rolled through the innocent railway's tunnel and on towards Bruntsfield and Merchiston. As we cycled through familiar streets I couldn't help but already feel proud, barring catastrophe we were home free. As we approached the turning to West Castle Road I proposed a Fist Bump. This turns out to be a very bad idea when you're tired, malco-ordinated and in the middle of the road. We missed each others fists but not the turning. Cycling down the road we saw no-one, we were too late. I had little way of knowing the time but it looked like we had missed the champagne. Then Mr. C's camera popped out from behind a car along with Mr. C, T and my cousins. We had made it, and we hadn't missed the champagne! I may have made whooping noises. I lit the Cigarette of Victory. Photos were taken:
That done with we trooped inside for champagne and dry clothing. Gathered in the dining room of my aunt and cousins house we sipped our drinks and exchanged congratulations and greetings. My Dad gave a short speech dedicating the ride to my uncle Graham who died of cancer in 2010 and Paul Tipper who died of cancer in 2009. At the end of this Ian presented Dad with a digital photo frame as a thank you from his sons for all his hard work and suggesting we come in the first place. Thank you Dad!
Once watered and dry we made our separate ways to drop off luggage at our accommodations. I was staying with Mr C. as is usual when in Edinburgh. Shortly afterwards we were due to meet in Cloisters with a welcoming committee of uncle Graham's
Friday night drinking cronies. As the priest at his funeral said "I never thought of Graham as a church goer. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that attended church, religiously, every Friday. Granted it had been converted into a pub!"
At Cloisters we caught up, shared stories and had a few drinks (there was a particularly nice Welsh cider on draught) before moving on to our booked dinner. The dinner was a bright and merry affair, wine flowed the food was excellent.
Afterwards we finally parted ways, each rider to his his own plans for the evening be it further merriment or blessed oblivion.
It was done for my brothers and I. For my Dad, Jeff, David, Andrew and Malcolm there was a way to go yet. JDAM (as I've mentally acronym'd them) had started in Land's End and there were still 342 miles to go to John O' Groats where they'd finally win their "T-shirt rights". We wished them well. I'm pleased to say they were successful and you can read about the whole LEJOG ride here on David's blog:
And that, as they say, is that. There's some more to say about events in Edinburgh, the trip home, my own general thoughts, but they can wait for another day and another post. I hope those who have read this did enjoy it.
I've some general thanks to make to things and companies: Thanks to Strava for providing the GPS tracking software, Google (as if that needs a link) for it's indispensable "Maps" application that saw us home more than once, Monster Energy Drinks, George Romeny's Kendal Mint Cake, all the staff of the accommodation we stayed in and a huge thanks to Just Giving for providing a straightforward, user-friendly fundraising system that helped us raise well over £10000!
Once again my thanks to all who offered donations, advice, cheerleading and many other forms of support. An especially large thanks and congratulations to Jeff Tipper, David Room, Andrew Swift and Malcolm Allen for their incredibly hard work in organising the ride, accommodation, route maps and of course for being such wonderful companions along the way. My thanks and love to my brothers for also being great companions and sharing the experience with me. Finally my deepest love and thanks to Mum and Dad for getting me to do this, supporting me, providing nearly all the gear I would need, training rides, medical advice, transport and financial aid, without you I quite certainly could not have done it. It's been a tremendous experience and a fantastic achievement.
Paul Tipper 1951 – 2009
Graham Horsman 1951 – 2010
Pamela Marjorie Room 1926 – 2012
*Any differences between David's and my recollection of events is merely a matter of perspective. No animals were harmed in the making of this blog though we might have scared a squirrel or two. Hills may go up as well as down. Your seating may be at risk if you do not keep up regular sudacream applications.