A bit like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, Andrew continues the frightening metamorphosis from human to Mike (half-man, half-bike). He emerged from the hostel this morning with oil all over his clothes and legs. It seems oil now pumps around his veins, carbon fibres replacing his skin. His speed up a hill is too fast to measure.
We set off early from Fort William bound for Invergordon. Except we didn’t, as some fool (don’t ask …) suffered a puncture before a wheel was turned. It didn’t matter it was raining, as we’d barely dried out from the day before. So, off we set into the driving rain.
The long rides have had a startling effect on young Sean Roberts. On Day One, he was a wee slip of a lad, adored by truck drivers across the South East of England for his boyish looks. By Day Eleven, he has become so manly and strong, he broke his second front mech of the ride – this time on Posh Tom’s spare bike.
Tom wept crocodile tears, knowing it would give him the perfect excuse to tell his wife, Katie, he really needed to buy a new spare Bianchi.
To while away the time as Sean’s bike was being fixed roadside, some of the lads, feeling cold and lonely and looking for love, played sardines in the cab of the van (parp, parp went Paul Kelly’s hooter under the gentle hand of the more experienced Paul Collins).
We got going again and whizzed on past Loch Lochy (so called as it’s a bit Loch-like), then – after the now obligatory twice-daily 45 minute coffee/cake/chocolate/anything edible left in the van stop in Fort Augustus – we passed dark, brooding Loch Ness. No sign of the eponymous monster. Instead, we stopped for lunch on Drumnachdrochit green with the WAGs and children.
Post-lunch, a version of the beautiful game ensued, but not one Pele would have recognised. Blatant fouling and flopping beer bellies abounded – the numerical victory of the Abrahams’ team was cancelled out by a wicked foul on PK by the man Abrahams himself. Where was the red card ref? (Joe Marr – an otherwise exemplary driver and saviour on many occasions – missed that one).
During the afternoon, as we headed inexorably north, a strange pale yellow disc appeared in the sky. Apparently, it is called The Sun. It was all too much for Neil, who decided to lie down in the middle of the road to wait for the next passing lorry to end his misery. Somehow it missed. But with a kind wind, we easily crossed the Moray and Cromaty Firths and finally reached Invergordon , chez Pippa and Robin. Pippa and Robin, supported by a cast of thousands of local friends, put on a lavish feast with tongues wagging, wine flowing and dancing girls (actually, I made that last bit up – but the eating, drinking and making merry are true). Pippa and Robin’s generosity and hospitality are boundless, and we’re immensely grateful to them.
As I write this, the lads are in the garden already reflecting on the journey so far. It has been a true experience for us all – something we all feel privileged to be a part of. One day and a 100 miles to go. Now, where’s that cream?