If getting all the way to John O'Groats wasn't testing enough, the journey back home from the most North Easterly point proved tricky. Paul and myself convinced the rest of the team to set off early on the last day as we had booked train tickets back home..they all agreed to this as none of them wanted us to win, Eoin's competitive streak shone through brightly here insisting he would come with us even if the others stayed in bed, bless..! Winning aside it was great to finish this together after a jouney of highs and lows physically, mentally and spiritually.
I can't begin to desribe the feeling of waking up with the rain sheeting down jumping on the bike to ride 100 miles through the hills of South Wales and then finish in the relentless rain..where was the summer we were promised?
Arriving in Ireland was a turning point for many of us, 2 countries down 2 to go - half way in that respect, even if we hadn't completed half the mileage. Taking the ferry from Belfast to Stranraer after the night before was thankfully very smooth otherwise some of us could have been ill...arriving in Scotland and cycling up the coast to Ayr was breathtaking and Scotland became the highlight for many of us. We were blessed with the weather and what a place..we were very lucky to have riden through it..not so sold on the cusine though; the masters of deep frying rustled up some great fish and chips in Ayr but served up a deep fried pie in Fort William - what the hell was that about?
Arriving at the finish post was a great feeling there were a lot of smiles and laughter we were all very proud of completing this marathon. The journey back was another marathon - 4.5 hours from Thurso to Inverness, apparently the train line was built before the bridges so the train goes around the houses..we were told that we could not take the bikes onto the train at Thurso as we had not reserved places, this was not for lack of trying but the massive allocation of 4 bikes had already been taken... the first reaction was to lob the bikes into the nearest hedge but we were prepared for this eventuality even though we didn't want to resort to it.."if we put the bikes into bags can we take them on as hand luggage?" the railway people had no answer to this so we took out what can only be described as giant carrier bags and stuffed the bikes inside. Job done - hopped on the train and got stuck onto the supplies we had bought ourselves from Lidl - thank god for recovery drink, refreshing the parts other recovery drink just doesn't reach - you can relax now lads, no more protein shake..
Got to Inverness, same nonsense on the train apart from the sleeper was massive with a hundred carriages and only space for 3 bikes! Basically we had to stuff both bikes into our sleeper cabin, it turned getting in to top bunk into some kind of high ropes activity. As I was trying to stuff these bikes into the cabin Paul disappered to rustle up some food, I was relieved to see him appear with a couple of portions of chips about 1 minute before the train set off. As you can imagine the cabin was a bit cramped with the bikes in there so we set off to find some empty seats near the buffet car for more a bit more recovery drink only to be shouted at by the guard for taking our own food in..not to worry it was a case of mistaken identity he didn't know we were the Brantham duo..2 dads inspired by Rose..
After a great night's sleep we got into Euston about 7.30 in the morning only to be told there was a train strike on Anglia Railways..handily our bikes were still bagged up, we hopped into a black cab across to Liverpool St. and to our joy there were only a few trains running but one of them was ours.. We were picked up at Manningtree station at 9.30 - thankfully Lisa, my wife, had not had our baby..my life would have been tougher if that had happened whilst I was away.