This was the fast day.
Breakfast at the Ibis was unlimited and thus suited our needs perfectly. Cheap and cheerful hotel, with a comfy room and cheap beer in the bar.
Quelling the desire to pocket a croissant or two, we left Preston and hit the A6 and stuck on it for the next sixty miles or so. We’ve opted for stops every twenty miles or thereabouts, so breakfast is followed by second breakfast (Lancaster for Powerade, then Kendal for Greggs), and then lunch (pub lunch in Penrith), and then a snack in Carlisle, some Coke near Gretna and a final Tesco lunch in Lockerbie.
Shap was overrated – just a slog. The descent was fast though and I’d definitely ride it again. The only thing I didn’t like was the false summit we encountered, but in hindsight it was better than the disappointing summit which is more a plateau than anything.
After a stop in Penrith for a pub lunch, then in Carlisle at an Aldi for some unbranded discount snacks, we made our way to the border. Losing the marked route we were on, we found ourselves cycling through an old RAF air base, now converted into industrial units. After ensuring that we could get out the other side, we rejoined the main route and rode towards Scotland.
Hitting the border, and getting the obligatory photo in Gretna, we made our way to Lockerbie.
We’d finished England, so it now felt like we were back on home territory and that the end of the ride was in sight and completely achievable.
After a stop beyond Gretna for juice and another Tesco lunch in Lockerbie, we finished with a six mile sprint to the hotel.
A big day tomorrow too – off to Comrie.
Once again, we had a great breakfast at the B&B – Highfields Farm is highly recommended.
This was meant to be our rest day, and at 75 miles meant a relaxed start. Approaching Stoke, I noticed the road getting busier, until we ended up on something resembling the M8 at rush hour. A quick detour onto a cycle lane led to the scenic side of Stoke – think post-apocalyptic ruins.
We finally got onto the escape route, and left Staffordshire and got into Cheshire. I was really impressed with Cheshire – rolling fields and very scenic. A far cry from industrial areas we had already passed through.
We both noticed that we no longer treat hills with any fear, and instead just grind our way up them. This is a contrast to the hell of Devon and Cornwall, so is surely a good thing.
Anyway, Cheshire became Lancashire and then Preston soon arrived. An easy day.
Firstly, a gratuitous link to my Justgiving page: here
Today will forever be remembered as the day the rain came. People say the third day of a tour is the hardest, but it wasn’t that bad which means we’ve definitely got a horrible one coming up sometime!
We had stayed at the Days Inn just North of Thornbury, which was great value for money. However, the package breakfast they offered at a fiver seemed measly to say the least. We opted to skip that and rode the 18 miles to Gloucester for breakfast.
After a quick stop for food, we checked the map and decided on Kidderminster for lunch, a further 42 miles away. However, hunger set in before long, so Worcester was reached and we opted for the Hobbit-like second breakfast of a panini.
One thing I love about riding the LeJog is that you pass through so many towns on the way, without having to worry about parking the car and having a look around. It means you can add a load of towns, cities and villages to your list of places you don’t need to go to ever again in your life to find out they were never worth going to in the first place.
Note that the above wasn’t aimed just at Worcester, but it makes quite an easy target. The same could be said for Kidderminster, where we met up with my dad for a quick pint of Coke.
However, one good thing about Kidderminster is the fact they have a TK Maxx. This is no big deal in itself, but the fact they sold James a pair of shorts to replace the frankly hideous ones he had originally brought is in my mind a very good thing.
Anyway, Kidderminster and my dad were soon left, and we went straight to McDonalds in Wolverhampton. (Wolverhampton is another of the places in the list above). One thing that McDonalds has got going for it is the fact you can get loads of calories for not much money. While it does make some people fat – despite being restaurant provider to the London 2012 Olympics – the high calorie content is just what you need when biking. On average we are burning 5,500 calories a day on the bike. A quarter pounder meal with a milkshake is 1200 calories, so I can’t see how anyone not doing a decent level of exercise would treat that as a snack.
Just as we were leaving Kidderminster, the rain started. We had expected some rain, and it started light, but soon it was chucking it down. However, we were warmed up so didn’t bother with jackets. This wasn’t a good idea when we had stopped at McDonalds, as we very quickly cooled down and ended up shivering until we had warmed up again by riding.
Following Wolverhampton, we stopped in Stafford to pick up some snacks. By this point we were ninety miles in but didn’t really feel it. I think we are getting to the stage where our fitness is improving day on day, and our legs (mine at least) don’t have the same dead feeling every morning that I was expecting.
Typically the day was finished with a climb, but then after arriving at the B&B we got a takeaway delivered and are just relaxing now.
Tomorrow is our rest day – only 70 miles to Preston.
It’s late now and I’ve not updated. Here’s a brief summary:
118 miles, hills an absolute pig until Taunton, 30 miles of flat riding then an utter bastard of a climb to Bristol Airport. Dropped into Bristol (very cyclist friendly) and then out to Stone, just North of Thornbury.
Tea and medals with my dad in the pub, bed now.
PS: nice coffee in Crediton, see links page
Today started early, with breakfast of bacon rolls being cooked well before eight. Bidding goodbye to Okehampton, we started out on the A30.
The A30 is commonly derided as being suicide on a bike, however on a Sunday it’s relatively quiet and the Tarmac is smooth. It’s also the fastest way out of Cornwall, with gentle climbs, fast and straight downhills and good visibility. I personally found it alright, and if you are accustomed to commuting on fast roads with cars buzzing you then you’ll find it fine.
We stopped in Bodmin for lunch, choosing a delightful Wetherspoons pub for a delicious meal. This part might be sarcasm – the beef burgers was bland but at least they were cheap. We had hoped to pick up an inner tube in the bike shop, but it was shut on a Sunday. Leaving Bodmin, we ended up on a horrible climb which was both steep and long. However, stopping at the top I found an abandoned inner tube on the verge and seeing no visible big holes I pocketed it for fixing later. One patch was all it needed – why people choose to throw them is unknown and it annoys me that folk feel the need to litter.
Anyway, we continued towards our destination, meeting a local CTC rider who showed us the alternative route to Okehampton by taking the old A30. This is where the camaraderie of LeJog is apparent, with people offering to fill our bottles at a quick stop we made. We had a good chat with our new friend, who incidentally was also riding a Van Nicholas, and who was also a fan of them, before he dropped away towards his home.
Ten miles to go, and I checked the route. I think it was the action of checking the route that slowed us down considerably. I think it’s when you know you’re nearly done that your motivation drops, so we felt the last few miles as we arrived at our B&B.
Overall, we both feel alright, although tomorrow is ten miles longer so this might be misplaced confidence…
Arriving in Penzance about half an hour late, following some train delays due to flooding, we made our way to Lands End. Everyone always says that Cornwall is hilly, and this didn’t disappoint. There is no such thing as a flat road in Cornwall, just uphill and downhill roads.
Five miles in, James got a puncture. After a quick change in light wind, we continued to Lands End. The first sight of it was a mixed bag. It’s a big collection of buildings, but at least the sun came out at the same time.
We got closer, and saw that the ‘Ye Olde’ visitor centre was closed and the place was deserted. This was a good thing though, as the thought of paying a tenner for a photo at the sign wasn’t really that appealing.
We got to the sign and there were a couple of finishers already there. They got some photos for us – free of charge, so we completely failed to contribute to the local economy!
Back to the hostel was easy enough as we knew what to expect, and then we turned in early knowing that the next day would be a big one…