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Friday, 1 June 2012

Day Nine - (1st June)

Day nine started off the same way as the other eight of our adventure - albeit rather earlier. With the final 96 miles ahead of us and an appointment with the Land's End fingerpost photographer (a date he didn't yet know about) we had a lot to do and a window of time to do it in.

From our overnight accommodation in Okehampton we opted for the most direct route to take us to the finish line. That route being the very busy, very fast, very (mainly) dual carriageway, A30. Now anyone that knows this road will understand it is not for the faint hearted....

Our day started in grey misty drizzle, a common climate in Dartmoor it seems, and thus we donned reflective wear and lights for the journey ahead. And what a journey.....

The A30 turned out to be everything we hoped it wouldn't be. We shared the road with gigantic trucks, 4x4s towing caravans the size of maisonettes, tractors, cars and pretty much every other kind of road going vehicle. All except bikes. Now why might that be....? The ride demanded absolute concentration, sticking inside the white line, avoiding debris and dealing with some huge climbs and huge decents. This wasn't cycling, this was hanging on. It was the A30 that delivered the first puncture of the entire journey when Simon's back tyre started hissing after a rocky decent. A quick change of inner tube and fifteen thousand blasts with the mini-pump and we were away. For now, as Craig was next to grind to a halt around ten miles later when his front tyre blew in spectacular fashion. This resulted in a replacement inner tube and tyre being required. Fortunately being proper adventurers we were equipped with both.

Having been delayed by these two breakdowns we pressed on, mindful of the four o'clock photography and the long drive home afterwards.

And so, at around 3pm we were rolling around Penzance with 12 miles to go and looking forward to a gentle run in along the coast. Wrong. Jogle has one last sting in the tail with a set of vicious climbs over the next six miles. Still having seen off Glencoe and Shap we weren't about to let these stand in our way and at 3:45 we arrived, jubilant, rolling the last couple of miles three abreast into Land's End. Job done!

A quick photo opportunity with Tony Pulis (Stoke City manager) and Nick Hancock (comedian/presenter) ensued as they too had just completed their own charity ride (but as a relay). So that was nice.

Photos taken at the fingerpost - it was time to load the car and head home. Upside Down is done, we've cycled every one of the 874 miles from John O'Groats to Land's End. No walking, no fighting, no falling out, no food that didn't contain serious amounts of carbohydrates, no blood and no tears.

Stats the way the cookie crumbles....

Miles done today: 96
Miles done in total: 874
Climbing done today: 1371 metres (4498 feet)
Confidence score: Need we say?

All of which means we have:

.... covered, by pedal bicycle alone, 874 miles.

.... burned 56,867 calories (the equivalent of 406 Wispa bars).

.... climbed almost 41,000 feet (40,941) to be precise. So, the height of Everest, and then a third of it again.

.... raised (so far) almost £2,500 for children with life limiting ilnesses for charity Promise Dreams (

Thank you for reading and being with us in support - this is the last post for Upside Down 2012.

Todays photos are now uploaded and photos from the first 2 days will be online soon

Simon, Pete, Craig

(and Paul... still busy updating these Blogs and photos)

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Day Eight - (31st May)

Day 8 of 9. The penultimate day. Last but one. Whichever way you look at it we're nearly there.

However, getting more nearly there required us to cover another 106 miles today from Bristol to Okehampton. This was to be a challenging day, with previous end-to-end participants telling tales of woe of the rolling hills of Devon. Some clever map planning, some internet research, and some local knowledge meant that our first 60 miles turned out to be pretty flat. Despite the comfortable terrain we remained disciplined, maintaining a steady pace with head down into the relentless headwind. And thus, at around 2pm, we found ourselves in the centre of Tiverton eating lunch in the sunshine. This was the precursor to an afternoon of climbing, descending, and climbing. However, our research proved invaluable as we managed to avoid the Cadbury Hills by taking an alternative route - still climbing and descending but a bit less vicious.

An afternoon tea stop consisted of large scones, jam and cream - when in Rome and all that - before further climbing and saw us arrive in Okehampton. Wet from the last two hours of persistent drizzle.

Stat's for the last but one day look a bit like this...

Miles today: 106
Miles so far: 786
Climb today: 1655 metres (5430 feet)
Confidence score 10/10, of course!

This is is then now - we're pretty much there! Tomorrow is the last day of riding before home beckons and a comfy bed, peace and quiet and relaxing Radox bath. But let's not get carried away - there's still 11% of this adventure to go......

More photos uploaded today (and all resized to make loading quicker)

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Day Seven - (30th May)

Our quest to reach the goal that Land's End continues.

Todays leg of the journey saw team Upside Down travel the 110 miles from Shrewsbury to Bristol via places such as Hereford and Monmouth - and that also meant a brief foray into our third country of the journey - Wales. Since traversing Shap earlier in the ride we have been enjoying relatively flat terrain and thus have (a) made good progress, and (b) been worried about what Devon and Cornwall may have in store for us. In doing so we had overlooked what sort of terrain (and by that I mean the size/severity of the hills) on today's route. From Shrewsbury to Hereford all was pleasant - a little too breezy in the wrong direction if I'm being picky.

Lunch was obtained from Greg's and then taken in the grounds of Hereford Cathedral. We were still hungry - more of which later. Things took a turn for the worse immediately after lunch when the A49 headed skyward. This was to be a pre-cursor for a very undulating ride through Herefordshire, with one particularly nasty climb that required digging deep into the reserves of energy and motivation.

And it is that - energy and motivation - that I feel is the reason why today's ride felt so difficult. Why motivation? Well for the last 6 days we've been heading 'home' ie south from John O'Groats. Now we're heading away from home again - ie south of Shrewsbury.

But moreover today was a story of poor nutrition - and the poor utilisation of said nutrition. Essentially took few carbs taken too late in the ride. A schoolboy error if ever I saw I one - and a mistake we won't be making again any time soon!

Stats the way to do it.....!

Miles done today: 110
Miles done so far: 680
Climb today: 1807 meters (5928 feet)
Confidence score: 9.9!!

 PS - we now have a new 'least favorite road to cycle in the whole world' road - which runs from the Severn Bridge to Avonmouth....

Day Six - (29th May)

Having yesterday spent the day (or at least part of it) 'doing Shap' we'd decided that today would be a gentle recovery ride through Cheshire and Shropshire. This being ahead of our last three days and the hills of Devon and Cornwall that seasoned riders have told us many-a-tale about. And so, soon after 0800, we began the continuation of our journey south.

Today was to prove different to the last five, with Preston, Wigan and Warrington to negotiate and many many traffic signals to hold us up. Indeed a rough calculation would suggest that of the several thousand traffic signals we came across today in the order of 74.6% (give or take) were found to be on red.

Despite the continued interruptions in progress we made good time and arrived at an Upside Down supporters home in Ashton-in-Makerfield at 09:34 - just four minutes behind schedule. A fine and substantial breakfast banquet was provided and amongst much banter and hilarity we dined like Lycra-clad kings for an hour or so. Thank you Sue and family!

Our day progressed well - a combination of strong legs, reasonable terrain and light winds made for good progress. So much so that we even had time to 'join the Cheshire set' of ladies that lunch and take our refreshment stop at a fine cafe near Tarporley. A swift few miles and we rolled into our Travelodge accommodation at around 5pm after a comfortable day of riding. All boding well for the remaining miles ahead it would seem.

Our day was topped off when we were joined by family as friends for a 'table for 25' dinner at the pub. A splendid evening was, I think, enjoyed by all.

Our bikes remain in good shape and reasonably clean. Simon's bike computer battery went flat around Lancaster on day five and he spent the miles since then being thoroughly miserable and guessing his speed, or shouting at Craig and Pete 'how fast are we going?' every so often. They rarely answered! But fear not, Simon was rescued by an RAC man (in said RAC man's garden) with a new battery and a handful of cable ties.

Outrmission to reach Land's End from John O'Groats using pedal power alone continues......

Today's stats look a little like this:

Miles today: 89
Miles so far: 568
 Metres climbed today: 997 (3271 feet)
Today's total time: 6hrs 1min
Confidence score:

Monday, 28 May 2012

Day five - (28th May)

Here we are, Monday 28 May and we find ourselves not only back in England but VERY back in England- in Preston in fact.

So today saw us depart out chill pod after a somewhat unsettled nights sleep. The morning bought sunshine in the sky, a fine dew on the grass and bickering around the car.

No matter, we prepare ourselves for the day ahead with now routine set of morning chores. Despite being now well practiced we once again found ourselves heading off later than had been planned. Clockwork it is not.

With just a few miles done we found ourselves in Gretna and with much excitement and renewed enthusiasm for the miles ahead we crossed into England. A stop for photos and  witty banter and we were once again on our way. Today's route saw us cover Carlisle and then down to Kendal whereupon we were buzzed by two RAF Tornado fast jets. Awesome. At Kendal we met up with Daz who decided, for reasons best known to him, to join us to ride to the top of Shap.

And so it was that we found ourselves on the climb out of Kendal and to the roof of the world that is Shap. The ride up to the village was, in truth, steady - the bit from Shap village to the top was a tough old climb. Nonetheless we made it to the top and then, at speed, we made it to the bottom.

Lunch in Kendal was followed by a very fast 40 or so miles from Kendal to just north of Preston. 40 miles that were, by and large, without incident except for Pete's attempt to join the M6 motorway. Yes, really.

Pasta eaten, blog written, photos uploaded and bedrooms in chaos. Tomorrow is day six and very exciting as we meet friends and family for dinner in Shrewsbury! Yay!!

 Stats anyone? Don't mind if I do...

Miles today: 105
Miles so far: 480
Metres climbed today: 1286 metres (4219 feet)
Time in the saddle today: 7hrs 4mins
Confidence score: 10!!!!
More photos uploaded today

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Day four (27 May 2012)

Well, what a day day four turned out to be..... Staying in a guest house last night meant that we had the unusual benefit of being provided with a full Scottish breakfast (essentially a full English but in Scotland it would seem - devolution has its limits). However, being accomplished athletes and now fully fledged mountain goats (see 'Day Three') we opted for the healthier muesli followed by whole meal toast and scrambled egg option. Not the easiest of decisions... Having breakfasted and having applied a selection of creams and potions we were ready to get day four underway - and at 08:03 we rolled out of Dumbarton and over the Erskine Bridge. The next few miles proved something of a culture shock. Having not seen a set of traffic lights or a kebab shop for several hundred miles we were now surrounded by the things - kebab shops shut, traffic lights on red. Whilst this was to prove to be a frustrating start to the day it was in fact representative of a generally tough day overall. Riding into the wind isn't fun, doing so on a road surface that hasn't been maintained since the days of the highwaymen is particularly rubbish! The last nine miles into Abington were a particular low point. Should Martians land and choose that road to do so on then their only assumption will be that the planet has been abandoned by its former inhabitants and the road is now being returned to nature.... Having said all of that we stuck to our task and shortly before 6pm we rolled into Hoddom Castle to find our chill pod waiting. The sun is shining and we've taken advantage of said conditions to give Paul the opportunity to cook for us on the BBQ, and a top job he did too! So, the stats: Miles done today: 96 Miles so far: 380 Metres climbed today: 1135 metres(3,800 feet) Time in the saddle: 7hrs 9 mins Confidence score 9.8 (out of ten) And tomorrow we shall return to England....

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Day three (26 May 2012)

Day three of our challenge saw us tackle the route from Fort William to Dumbarton. Essentially this meant getting on to the A82 this morning and getting off the A82 (90 miles later) this afternoon. But such a description simply doesn't do today's ride justice. Oh no! The first 20 miles from Fort William to Glencoe was ridden alongside the staggeringly beautifully Loch Linnhe. The road was flat, the sun was shining, the bikes were humming and the world was good. And then the climbing started - a continuous uphill (up mountain?) taking us ever closer to the snowy peaks that we'd seen and pointed to early in the day. All three of team Upside Down made it to the top - no walking, no car, but by pedal power and determination alone. I'm proud of us all! A quick stop at Bridge of Orchy (with Craig doing some odd stretching manouveres)and soon we find ourselves once again in the climb and rapidly(!??) getting back to the altitude we'd descended from only minutes earlier. A stop for photos at the Rannoch Moor summit (1142 feet) and the big decent commenced. What a ride (oh, and what a headwind - not forecast and relentless). Lunch in Crianlarich (served by possibly Scotland's least cheerful shopkeeper) and a brisk 20 miles later we find ourselves sweeping alongside Loch Lomond. An ice cream stop (and more odd stretching) by the loch (where we were served by Scotland's least cheerful ice cream purveyor) and we were off again, continuing our route south. And so it is that tonight we found ourselves in the Positano Guest House in Dumbarton, pondering what to eat and where to eat it. Day three done.  Today's stats then: Miles today: 90 Miles so far: 274 Metres climbed today: 1,520 (4,987 feet) Time in the saddle today: 6hrs 28mins Confidence score: 9.7 (Pete 7) out of 10 Tomorrow we shall continue our march towards 920 miles and to the goal that is Land's End!