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Penultimate Day, Ultimate Hospitality

FundraisingPosted by Stephen Collins Thu, July 30, 2009 06:27:22

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?

There Was a Young Man from Kent ...

TrainingPosted by Stephen Collins Mon, April 13, 2009 18:48:10
Saturday saw the Sarf London crew head off into the wilds of Kent. Passing through the mean streets of Croydon was evidently too much for Sean. His (misthreaded) pedal sheared off and he headed home by train - bad luck. As we enjoyed a half-way bacon sarnie and coffee, Tom disappeared into the rain to do an imminent bit of tromboning elsewhere in the country - parp parp, Tom. 

Eoin, Ronnie and I headed onward and (mainly) upward. We took on a half-dozen of Kent's finest hills, including Ide Hill, a tricky one-in-four with a bend, which, just as you think it's all over, reveals another half-mile of pain. As Kelly set off out of the saddle at racing pace up Ide Hill, he asked Ronnie if it was as short as it looked. "Aye, it's a short thing", reassured Ronnie, adding once Eoin was out of earshot, "That'll stop the wee bastard". We took a slow climb up and round the corner to find Kelly half dead by the roadside. Nice one, Ron!  Anyway, no owls seen and 112km travelled.

Just in case anyone was thinking training was going too well, I managed to put my back out this morning (unbelievably, by sneezing on the way to Mass) and can hardly get about at all. Resembling still more the geriatric I am becoming, it is a sad day - out of training for at least a week maybe two. smiley