So once again, this trip has delivered - and not just with the riding. I spent Wednesday and Thursday catching up with an old friend from Writtle, Mel Hills, nee Bowden, and her family Kev and Niamh (or is that Naimh? either way, its pronounced Neeve!), and Josh. It was great to be able to catch up after 13(!) years, and hopefully now I'm back in the UK we will not leave it so long til next time :-)
Leaving Burnopfield, just outside Gateshead in County Durham, I headed north-westish, towards the Roman Road that runs alongside Hadrian's Wall. I had hoped to at least see the wall from where I was cycling, but never could make it out. I guess it was just a bit too well hidden from non-paying eyes...or is that cynical? What I did get was lots of hills (the Roman's may have known how to build 'em straight, but the lazy blighters couldn't even be bothered to dig a gully to put 'em in!), and ultimately a puncture at high speed, courtesy of a pot hole. I couldn't find a thorn or anything else, so suspect it was an impact puncture caused by too much weight over the wheel as it crashed through yet another hole in the road (damn lazy Romans again!), which had been hidden in the dappled light. Still, with my shiny new pump, I had it fixed in no time and was feeling pretty smug about the shrewd purchase.
From the east-west run of the Roman road, I headed further north to slice the bottom off of the Northumberland National Park (the 8th NP of the trip), and cruised my way a river valley to Kielder Water and the Youth Hostel there. Since leaving the Lake District, I have been lulled by a series of rolling landscapes, crammed with hills that are long and regular rather than short and abrupt, and I was loving it! Long, steady hills I can cope with, it seems. Just head down and find a rhythm, and try not to stop more often that necessary (its the starting again that really hurts the knees, you see!). Add to this the patriotic colours of the British hedgerows (Red Campion, white Wild Garlic and Bluebells) complementing the patriotic colours of myself (red face from exertion, whites of eyes bulging and teeth bared in effort, and blue of language), and I was feeling pretty good. I think having a mileage count up and realising I was well over half way, and seeing that my fundraising target was over a £1000 too, well things were looking pretty positive.
|The end is in sight. You have my skin tight trousers to thank.|
From Peebles, I had my longest day to date ahead of me - 76.3 miles to Drymen and my brother-in-law's sister's house, near Loch Lomond. I was slightly apprehensive, as my last day of this sort of length was the now famous "Day from Hell", but with a hill profile that suggested nothing untoward I was relatively positive about the whole thing. Once again, barring another impact puncture (tyres too hard? Potholes too deep? not sure), I made it to Drymen after only 6 hours of cycling (plus a couple of hours for rests/maintenance). Very satisfying. I had stopped for lunch near Airdrie at a franchise pub, and felt a moment of pride as a local lad joined me in the beer garden with a friendly "Alright, Big Yin?". I soon realised (and he admitted to the bar maid) that he was "steamin'", which made his Glaswegian even harder to follow than my brother-in-law's, but he was friendly enough, and when his mate joined us, they were suitable impressed with my Bradley Wiggins get-up, and the ride I was doing. I got to shake hands 4 times, they were so impressed!
|How to Recognise Different National Parks from Quite a Long Way Away: No 9 - Loch Lomond and the Trossachs|