Thursday, 21 July 2011

                                                 Day 13 Helmsdale to John O’ Groat’s and home
As predicted, there was next to no signal in John O Groat's, hence the late posting of the blog!

Unbelievably, I was first to rise this morning at half 6, mind you, I had slept in a cupboard, so I had some peace and quiet! I think the fact everyone apart from Omar and I had finished off the alcohol we had brought with us, may explain why everyone slept in!
My Cupboard

On arrival yesterday, Steve, the fireman explained that if they get a ‘shout’ the phone in the station will ring once. At about half 7, while Dave was still asleep and the others were eating beans on toast, the phone rang! We went straight into panic mode as several firemen were expected to arrive at the retained station in the next few minutes and our kit was all over the place. Tris, Dave and Omar had slept in the room where the crew gets kitted up, while Paul and Keith had slept next to the fire engine itself. Everyone was running around trying their best to tidy up and hide all the empty alcohol bottles before the watch commander caught us. Ten minutes went by and no one came. It was then that we realised that Paul was not in the room when the phone rang. He denied having anything to do with it. Twenty minutes had gone and still no one came. By the time we left just after 9, no one had turned up, but at the very least it got Dave out of bed! I guess we’ll never know if it was a Davies ‘blag’ or not!
The thing inside the grey sleeping bag is in fact Paul!
The midges this morning were everywhere. Thousands of the little biting things all helping themslevs to an all you can eat buffet at our expense! (Midlanders-yum yum!) We were surprised they were out and about considering how cold it was.
The road had a few sneaky hills and turns before a lovely downhill. The boys got over 40mph going down into the valley, the only problem was, it was a 13% climb back out of it. It was very twisty and full of hairpin bends. Of all the miles they have covered over the last 13 days, they all agreed that that hill was the toughest. They did get some respite however, and it wasn’t long before we reached Wick. Compared to the last few villages we had been through, Wick felt like the size of a city! It even had a Tesco, something that very few places this far north seem to have! (Other supermarkets are available!!)
Wick was 18.5 miles from the finish line, and Bev and Omar thought was close enough for them, so they hopped on their bikes and joined the other four. As much as I admire him for what he has achieved over the last two weeks, it was funny to see Omar and his bandy legs keeping up with the others! He did really well.
Omar, with Dave on his right

There were one or two miles hills for the six of them to conquer before we saw 'it'. We stopped in a layby about three miles away and just stared at 'it'. We couldn't believe that we were finally there and the lads couldn't believe they had cycled to 'it'.The 'it', of course was ‘the end of the country’, the top of mainland Britain, and the finish point that was John O Groat’s. And what a grotty little place it was! All that way and they couldn’t even be bothered to spruce it up a bit! And it was cold! But at least it was dry. Now I would like to say that we all rolled down the last hill into town and crossed the line-job done. But unfortunately I made a bit of an error when I planned the route. If you look at any map of Scotland, you will see that John O Groat’s is about two miles from the very north east tip of the country. Now the challenge is called End2End because you ride from one end of the Britain to the other. However, the finish line was in the John O Groat’s itself, so in fact, we should have called it the End2 two miles from the End challenge. What made it worse was that I didn’t realise this oversight until everyone had cycled those extra two miles to a place called Duncansby Head, which didn’t go down too well with the others! Oops! But at least they can say they have done the full End2End! At just after 2pm, the four cyclists completed their run covering nearly 930 miles (including the extra added on after my mistake) and many congratulations for their achievement! They made it look very easy indeed!
We had a few snaps taken by the signpost, then we were awarded our medals that Mrs S (Aka Keith’s Mrs) had kindly provided for us, before throwing the bikes in the van and nipping back down to Dudley, some 567 miles!
Just in case you were wondering, the signpost isn't actually attached to tris' head!

 We left at 3:15pm and rolled into Dudley station at 3:45am! We retraced our steps through the highlands and back down to Glasgow. The timing was perfect as the sun was setting over the Glens. It rained on and off until exactly midnight! This was also strange because at the exact tine the rain stopped we crossed the border back into good old England! I drove the minibus while Jo, Bev, Dave and Omar took turns in driving the little van. I would have loved it for one of the others to drive the bus, but I was the only insured driver.
Well I will stop rambling on now. There will no doubt be a few more blogs over the next few days and weeks, hopefully with some videos on, so keep checking back. Once again, on behalf of all the Castle Wheelers, thank you so much for all your support, there is already talk about another challenge next year, but I think we all need some rest and recovery first!!

Thank you.

Posted by John

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