Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bubbles and Pork Pie

Despite the warnings of strong winds, and despite the majority of people starting at Lands End, it always seemed logical to do it 'the other way'. OK, a large part of that is purely logistical, as it's much easier to get home from Cornwall than the northern tip of Scotland. However, we stand by the old adage that it's all downhill from John O'Groats, and it seems apt that we end our trip at Lands End, the end of the land. Today was our 15th on the saddle, and our arses and thighs knew it. The daily endeavours of an average 120km had seen stairs practically impossible to pass on the way to bed at night, and on the way to breakfast in the morning. Deep Heat eased the pain somewhat, and we appropriately used the last of ours this morning.

At the final breakfast table, with the embarrassing lingering smell of un-washed clothes, sweat, and Deep Heat, breakfast wasn't sitting well. Being faced with a paltry 65km to Lands End, approximately half our daily average, I thought I was being wise in going for the lighter and more jovial egg and soldiers. Taking a breather after the first climb out of Falmouth, I belched a horrible combination of dinner and breakfast, old wine and new eggs, and immediately felt rough. Along the A394, todays only main road, we stopped for breath and I spent 10mins picking tiny pieces of glass out of my tyre with a feather. Feeling decidedly amateurish, we did all we could do, got our heads down and ploughed on to Penzance. Up on smooth beautiful tarmac, and down at un-controllable speeds on rough, jagged, and loose gravel. Repeat. Repeat again.

Promises and rewards were plentiful in Penzance. Firstly, cappuccino and a scone with clotted cream. Secondly, having booked the B&B for tonight and tomorrow, they kindly agreed to an early check-in so we could complete the final stretch to Lands End without our luggage, so we de-bagged at Lombard House.

Priding ourselves on an awkward balance of forward-thinking and hap-hazard planning, we stopped at the Co-Op in Newlyn to buy a bottle of bubbles and some pork pies, and realised we'd left the spare inner tubes and puncture repair kit at the B&B. Somewhat tempting fate, we sighed a collective, 'fuck it', and made for National Cycle Route 3 and a little village called Mousehole. The route was sublime, curves, hills, tiny villages, and hedges tall enough to block out the wind, but low enough to enjoy the view. The signs then told of Lands End being 5miles away. The roads faded into nothingness, or that may have been our brains. We didn't exchange a word. 2miles. 

At John O'Groats, the much-photographed white sign is located at the end of the road in the village. There's a chip shop, some open grassland, a small cafe/visitor centre, and not much else. When we left, at 9am on a Monday morning, there was no-one around. We had to ask 2 BT engineers to take our ceremonial photo. Rolling into Lands End this afternoon, past the huge car-park, ticket booth, gift shop, museum, 4-D cinema, food court, and Shawn the Sheep experience, some of the joy was immediately stripped. We'd expected a white sign, some cliffs, some green, and a backdrop of waves. What we got was a queue, and the privilege of paying 9.95 for an official photo. A photo that will take 2 weeks to be printed and posted! Thankfully, the photographer was human enough to take a picture with my phone. 

As the crow flies, it's 874miles from John O'Groats to Lands End, but our scenic route consisted of 1012miles by it's mid-afternoon completion. If you were a common garden snail, it would take you nearly 3 and a half years to travel the distance, which seems impressive. The speed of light would take 0.00469 of a second. The distance is the equivalent to 80 times up and down Mount Everest, yet just 7.5 laps of the M25, which seems wrong. To travel it in a London Cab would cost a little over £2000, and it would require 1,153,680 people to form an end-to-end human chain.

Having found a quiet spot, away from the wobbling crowds, we reflected upon the statistics above, which were presented at the 'End-to-Enders' museum, and cracked open the bubbles. We toasted a journey of adventure, and to every host, patron, B&B proprietor, bike mechanic, waiter, waitress, passer-by, dog, cat, bossy little toddler, and curious pensioner we've met along the way... cheers! 



The final day in numbers...

69.7km (grand tour total of 1629.5km)
3:28hrs pedalling time
892m climbed
19.9km/h average speed
54.7km/h top speed



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sexy Hills

Local Co-Op. Mini bottle of wine and chocolate. Walk to B&B. Bed. Drink wine. Eat chocolate. Look at Strava. Write blog. The post-dinner rituals, of which there's only one left. Looking at the elevation graph of todays ride, it looks like a healthy heartbeat. Sharp rise, sharp fall. Slightly sharper rise, slightly sharper fall. We endured the climbs the south coast had laid on for us, and found delirious pleasure on the downs. Fuelled by another full-English, and by a cheeky ferry crossing after just 3km of cycling, we crossed the border into Cornwall and climbed immediately. As usual, the wind was swirling around us, gathering pace and insects, and depositing those, and all it's fury, directly into our faces. This doesn't alter momentum much while climbing, it's all lowest gear and slow rhythm kinda cycling, but when you're having to work and frantically pedal to go downhill, momentum and mood plummet. Cycling into a headwind has often put me into a dreamy trance, and I often think about pedalling in Mallorca, and how so many of the climbs were shaded from the elements by roadside trees. Heading into the aptly named Downsderry, suddenly the roads in my imagination, and the reality in-front of me became the same thing. After sweating uphill and into the wind, a sheltered descent on smooth tarmac was a heavenly gift. More than a few times I heard myself groaning with the kind of pleasure usually reserved for sexual contact, or Galaxy chocolate adverts.

There were two more of those sheltered climbs and descents, and the second one took us into the picture-postcard village of Looe. Cars displayed number plates from several European countries, and accents from all over the UK entered earshot. People were generally jovial in demeanour and dress, as they wobbled between chip shop to cafe, and from cream tea to post cards. Everyone seemed to be eating  as we were, carb overloads and as-many-calories-as-you-can-in-one-sitting, so we joined in. Cappuccino and a scone with a frankly ridiculous amount of clotted cream.

From Looe it was a straight forward B road adventure through to Boddinick, where we caught the days second ferry to Fowey. Rather than viewing these floating vessels as 'cheat kilometers', we view them as our respectful testimony to following the scenic route, and you should, too. 

From Fowey it was more B roads and less hills. We were making great time until the lack of snacks to go became a choice to regret. The coffee and scone wasn't enough, and my biological red light had been on for a few kilometers. As I began to feel quite faint, we saw a Tesco Extra, and salvaged just about enough energy to cycle through the car-park and collapse on a bench at the front of the store. After sitting and groaning for a few moments, i shuffled around the store in my socks, and purchased a cheese and pickle sandwich, two pork pies, some salt and vinegar Real McCoys, a bottle of sparkling water, and some chocolate. We shared most of it in a delightful fury.

Upon leaving the store, Em's progress menacing rear tyre had gone soft again. Luckily, we were on the outskirts of St Austell, and much like most towns in the UK, the big supermarket is located in the same soulless patch of concrete as a Halfords. Endless grey with white painted lines was a showcase for the family hatchback. Almost like a hastily arranged museum of ordinary cars. We skirted the car-park, and passed the usual logos - Boots, B&Q, Next, Argos - and finally cycled into Halfords. The tyre hissed out all the air we'd put in with the pump, so in a respectfully honest admittance, we informed Steve that if we were left to our own devices, fitting a new inner-tube would cause much swearing and a possible break-up, we politely asked if he'd do it. He would, there and then, and for the sum of £9. We were in complete agreement.

After that little delay, the roads to St Mawes were both kind and fast, and one more of those glorious downhills threw us out in continental Europe. White houses, sparkling blue waters, a bright azzure sky with a few splashes of white fluff, and even people swimming in the sea. The sun was out, and Britain was Great. We purchased two Magnums - one espresso and one white chocolate, and two ferry tickets for the 20min crossing to Falmouth.

Falmouth is another quaint gem on the south coast, and our B&B was a short ride along the coastal road. After a shower each, we walked back into town, and requested bread & olives, beer, wine, and the wi-fi code. While sharing all of the above we booked two nights in Penzance for the last day, and a rest day, and reserved a car to drive back to Northampton on Friday. Usually, we'd do no such thing as swap our pedal powered modes of transport for an automobile, but it worked out at precisely £143.70 cheaper than train tickets, and, traffic/roadworks pending, will be much quicker. After the shared starter and logistics chores were done for the night, we found a beautiful Thai restaurant, and shared a Massamam chicken curry, and more wine.

There have been plenty of nights throughout the past 2 weeks where we've collapsed into bed, and declared the days cycling the best ever, and today was another.


The penultimate day's digits...

99.6km's completed (running total: 1560.4km)
5:07hrs riding time
1535m climbed
19.5km/h average speed
68.4km/h top speed
3 ferries used


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beef Hula Hoops



While our morning rituals have remained the consistent in content, weather check, route check, Deep Heat, Savlon, breakfast etc, they have gotten later in the day. A combination of rainy mornings and heavy legs are to blame. This morning was no different, but did stand true to the old Scottish saying that, 'if it's wet at 7, it'll be dry by 11'. Indeed, 7am saw a heavy drizzle, but we only caught the tail end of it wobbling away from Bampton at 10am this morning.

The morning, though grey and drizzly, started brightly in terms of route. Bampton is a tiny village located north of Tiverton, and was chosen as a nightly stop-over purely because nothing was available in Tiverton. Returning to something resembling civilisation proved tricky from this B-road hide-out, and Google maps had suggested some tiny countryside tracks. Think Alice in Wonderland but without the LSD-inspired talking animals. These tracks would have been sublime had it not been for the recent rainfall and persistent winds. Mud, dirt, grit, and bits of tree certainly don't enhance a bikes performance, or look, but just as we do, they soldiered on stoically. After crossing and by-passing some more major roads, there were 45km's on the clock before we registered a coffee and cake stop. There are many benefits of stopping in a garden centre. Firstly, they're usually very close to the roadside, which means less walking and wearing down the cycling cleats. Secondly, they usually provide that rare but delightful petting corner. On the way to the bathroom, after drinking something doing a questionable impression of a cappuccino, I was able to have a chat and a cuddle with several guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits. 

With a few more km's under the proverbial belt, we'd ploughed on through anything resembling a respectful lunchtime, and found ourselves in what has recently become an all too familiar moment - too late for lunch, too far from home, and un-able to stop. After following the very sincere delights of National Cycle Route 3 through Dartmoor National Park, we agreed to stop at the next readily available supermarket for a snack. The committee responsible for placing the Spa Local on the outskirts of Tavistock will never know the depths of our gratitude. At 16.45, I consumed everything that is good about England; beef flavoured Hula Hoops, a pork pie, and some sparkling water, bottled at it's source in Buxton, Derbyshire.

Somewhat inevitably, a late start means a late finish. We didn't quite match yesterdays frantic race against fading daylight, but at times it sure felt like it. Gary Wilmot, (UK actor and singer) once stayed at our B&B home for the night, and he said Rob and Sue were probably the best guesthouse hosts in the world. On the evidence of our brief evening encounters so far, he'd be correct in such a lavish assumption. Sue provided a more than detailed explanation of how the keys work, gave several dinner recommendations as part of a map-based tour of Plymouth, and has even allocated us a room with a view of the bikes. They're stored, somewhat riskily un-locked in the back yard. Rob agrees, testifying that it's a very quiet cul-de-sac around the back. We like Rob because he's just offered us wine, and he's a bit of a cyclist himself.

Here in bed, the wine has been paired with chocolate, which has fuelled the booking of tomorrows accommodation in Falmouth, and a car to drive us and the bikes back to Northampton on Friday. Tomorrow will be the penultimate day on the pedals, our 14th day taking us from John O'Groats to Lands End. Forecast; sunny spells and a drop in wind.

We can only hope.



The daily digits...

119.4km traveled today (1460.8km since Monday 13th July)
6:27hrs pedal time
1534m climbed
18.7km/h average speed
54.7km/h top speed
2812 calories burned 

19miles to Bampton


It was too wet to be summer. The unwavering rain and drizzle hung around telling stories of a cold November afternoon. It was far from that summer rain which can warm and cool all at the same time. In fact, it was fucking cold due to a horrible south-westerly wind, and a lack of waterproofs. We found ourselves in the unusual position of having just finished dinner, and still pedalling. An early dinner followed a late start, and as we found ourselves struggling on empty stomachs with 35km still to go, Taunton become an unprecedented evening meal pit-stop. Sexy fish finger sandwich for him, bacon and avocado salad for her. The food propelled us out of Tiverton, on on to the B3227 in all it's hilly and windy glory. Racing against the looming possibility of dark country lanes without bike lights, we eventually made it to tonights venue in this one-night-only pedal-powered tour of B&B cosiness, the village of Bampton, just north of Tiverton.

Our morning's departure from Bristol was a clumsy one. First waiting for the rain to stop, which it did, for 5mins, and then we lost the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and then we had to stop at the Ashton Gate bike shop for some spare inner tubes and a blast of air from a borrowed pump. Momentum finally got behind us, unlike the wind, and encouraged us on to Cheddar, for some local cheddar cheese on toast. The king of simplistic yet satisfying English brunch dishes.

From Cheddar we followed some pleasingly warmer gusts of air and dry spells through to Bridgwater. In search of a coffee and cake pit-stop, we found only The Four pub open. Due to the lack of milk, all hot drinks were off the menu, so Em downed an appletize while I negotiated the awkwardness of being English, being male, being under the age of 75, and yet ordering just a half pint of lager. My terrible choice seemed to be forgiven as the 'John O'Groats to Lands End, 2015' printed on my jersey, and my general lycra-clad demeanour sparked distracting conversations. The favourite of which involved an elderly Irish gentleman sympathetically referring to Emily and asking, "what does she make of such a trip?", I smiled and said it was all her idea, to which he responded by shouting loudly, "fuck off", and spitting on the floor.

You might have thought we'd have learnt by now, but evidently not. Regrettably, we chose to follow those periled little blue signs from Bridgwater to Taunton. National Route 33 proposed a direct route, and a scenic looking one at that, delicately poised alongside the canal. We've been asking a lot of our road bikes, the daily impression of being a touring bike, but asking them to be mountain bikes alongside the heavy gravel tow paths was a stretch too far. So, we re-joined the scenic but indirect B roads to Taunton. Hungry and thirsty, we stopped in Taunton and took delight in finding a restaurant which a) was willing to welcome two sweaty, damp, and Deep Heat smeared cyclists, and b) offered a sexed up fish finger sandwich on the menu. At least the stomach would be happy on the final stretch to Bampton.


The daily digits...

123.4km ridden 
(cumulative grand total: 1341.4km)
5:59hrs pedal time
973m climbed
20.6km/h average speed
56.2km/h top speed
2245 calories done



Friday, July 24, 2015

Mamma Mia

Rolling out of the driveway in St Peters Close felt like the start of a journey. Cycling jerseys removed of stains, blood, sweat, and tears, and replaced with a fragrance of unidentified freshness. Bikes devoid of squeaks, creaks, and dirt. Legs rested with the inactivity of a day of rain and sitting on ones arse watching live recordings from the Glastonbury festival. The only habitual ritual was cake, only todays cake was consumed before departure in honour of my 32nd birthday. Em's mum had baked an orange and vanilla cake, which was lapped up with double cream and raspberries. Two further portions of which were packed for the road, and not so sneakily consumed at the first pit-stop of the day in Ross-en-Wye.



From Ross-en-Wye, we pretty much followed the scenic valley of the River Wye south. This was rolling English countryside at it's best, even though we were so close to the Welsh border. The one serious climb of the day came at Symonds Yat, which although sounding like a genetically modified rodent, was actually just a steep incline. The celebratory mood at the top was somewhat dampened by realising we'd left the small saddle bag at Em's parents' place in Hereford. Within it were the spare inner tubes, tyre changing levers, puncture repair kits, and the highly-lauded but under-used multi-tool. After several loud expletives, startling several families in the vicinity, we reached an unspoken agreement to replenish our stock at the next bike shop, and not try too hard to tempt fate into giving us a flat.

From the summit of Symonds Yat it was generally a downhill, generally heading south, and generally sticking to the quieter B-roads to avoid the A49. Once we found the B4228, we hit the proverbial auto-pilot and cruised out of England, into Wales, and immediately bought hot Welsh cakes at a market stall, before finding a wonderful Italian Cafe called 'Mamma Mia'. "Mamma Mia" was also the cry as we deliberated over lunch, confused by our own hunger levels after the Welsh cakes. Pushed by the hard-selling Italian owner, we ended up panic ordering 4 starters to share, and a couple of aqua frizzantes. The sun shone, our table creaked under the collective weight of calamari, caprese, brushetta, and salads, and two girls were busking with a heady mix between acoustic and operatic tones. We could have been anywhere but Chepstow. But, in Chepstow we were, and straight after an espresso and a triumphant fart, it was up on to the suspension bridge, and back into England on National Cycle Route 4. Bristol was to be our final destination, but only after the Sustrans Gods (and our own eyesight) had let us down once again. Having followed the fatal blue signs, by the time we found our route into Bristol to be doubling back on itself, it was too late, and a serene waterside route into the city became a rushed job of weaving in and out of Saturday evening traffic.

It's funny, wherever we depart, wherever we're heading too, and whenever we leave, we alway arrive at 6pm. Too late for a bike shop, but right on time for dinner and drinks.



The Numbers...


103.3km's (1218km running total)
4:50hrs moving time
1261m climbed
21.7km/h average speed
57.2km/h top speed

Hereford's a Haven

Dreaming is fast becoming a favourite pastime. Not the dreaming of future achievement or events, just the plain old night time dreaming. Movies of the mind which play at full-speed in the wee, small, and dark hours. Though I personally fight a constant battle to remember even still images of these very random stories and moments, I do know they're fuelled in their depth of plot by red wine and sleeping in different locations. 21 Coton Hill in Shrewsbury is just about as 'different' a property I've ever stayed the night in. A wooden framed English cottage built in 1550, and both painstakingly and lovingly restored by Donatella, an Italian illustrator of Sicilian and Danish descent. Such is the international charm of a last minute Air BnB reservation. Not content with unknowingly and inadvertently aiding some bizarre dreams to my fantastic nights sleep, Donatella was also kind enough to provide breakfast for Emily, myself, and Em's parents. 'Marge & Old bean' arrived for some cereal, toast, coffee, juice, and scrambled eggs, before Marge took our luggage, and our pedalling due was treated to a special guest in Em's dad.


At a predicted 92km, a lighter day in the saddle, but one which included some taxing climbs. Even if I do state so myself, we all performed admirably as we overcame such burdens as a second puncture for Em, and heavy legs all-round. Slightly later than expected we rocked up in Ledbury for a coffee, cake, and lunch stop. Curiously, in that exact order.

Fuelled by a non-conformist lunch stop, our bloated middles were transported by our piston-like thighs through such towns which could only be found alongside English B roads, tantalising the mind with names such as; Munslow, Diddlebury, Culmington, Richards Castle, Luston, Hope-under-Dinsmore, and finally, after stops for ale and laying in the grass, Moreton-on-Lugg. Cycling with another person provided a much-needed lift to morale, and a change of scenery for the consciousness, and paved the way for a well-timed 'rest day' in Em's hometown of Hereford. After Thursday's late breakfast, arrival and dinner time were all pushed back to beyond bed time, so Friday has become a wonderful time to sit. The weather outside is grey and wet, and shows no sign of changing anytime this millennia. So far, we've only left the house to visit Em's grandparents, and buy tea and biscuits from Waitrose to go with the Guardian.

We're waiting for the weather to return to sometime yesterday morning...



Daily Numbers:


92.7km's completed (1114.7km's running total)
4:24hrs moving time
21km/h average speed
59.8km/h top speed
816m climbed
1971 calories burned & replenished
1 special guest

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Time Travel

We awoke to find Wigan pretty much as we left it; looking quite pleasant despite the constant drizzle, yet devoid of any people other than the ones in cars moving slowly to work. With little choice, we joined them. 

The thing about passing through the north of England, is that it's simply depressing. Our route down the UK has been stunning in places, breathtaking in others, and all set to the back drop of quirky and interesting people. Ploughing on through this corridor of northern England made for none of those things. Geography gave us little choice in terms of a scenic route, so from Wigan we followed the rush hour through Warrington where the sheer number of cars gridlocked on the road, and the amount of glass along the side of the road, saw us resigned to a morning coffee stop at Costa. We're not usually ones for chain restaurants or cafes, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Refuelled, we joined the tow path alongside the St Helen's Canal provided some respite. All the way down this 12km path, buried on overgrowth, running parallel to what was one of the most important canals in the country, and we didn't see a soul. When the overgrowth dispersed, there was the treat of a view of the River Mersey, all bleak and painful. Tourist info displays tried to pay tribute to a bygone era of driving industry and integrity, but even they had in turn become a shrine to crap and lazy graffitti.

As we came into Widnes, we were thrown back into 'civilisation'. We joined the A533, our only option of crossing the River Mersey into Runcorn, with shouts of support from white van men and chavs in a butchered Fiat Punto such as, "what the fuck are you doing!?", and "use the fucking bike lanes!". I flipped my middle finger and pedalled stoically on.

We managed to plot a slightly more tranquil route through, and more importantly, out of Runcorn, weaving up and down Beachwood Avenue till we met the Old Chester Road. Since the M56 has taken most of the traffic away, it was good to feel like the King of the road again. We even got our tyres pumped up and one of 7 bike shops counted between Frodsham and Chester. Into Chester for a lunch fit for two old dames; roasted ham sandwiches (cut into triangles), a pot of tea with dainty flowery cups and saucers, and a carrot cake.

From Chester we followed quiet B roads heading to Shrewsbury which should have seen some thoroughly enjoyable cycling. However, somewhere between Shocklach and Threapwood on the B5069, something curious happened. First, someone filled my thighs with lead which put a terrible strain on my knee and ankle tendons, which in turn, screamed blue murder at me for partaking in such a ridiculous undertaking. 'Seriously, it's the summer holiday, we could be on a beach drinking cocktails', was the pre-watershed summary of what they were screaming. Secondly, someone, probably the same person, filled my backpack with concrete, and smothered the road in superglue. Going got tough, and not even a gluttonous stop for lucozade and chocolate could raise physical or mental morale. Every force down on the pedals brought some kind of agony. Physical pain from knees and ankles, and mental pain from the very realistic, thought temporary, questions of what the hell we were thinking. Soon after leaving Wem on the A528, I blacked out. I awoke in the 16th century, laying on a firm bed with a stone cold breeze swirling around me. Centuries old antiques surrounded me, and my luggage was strewn across an antique luggage chest. Floorboards creaked and curved, as did the original wooden beams across the walls and ceilings. Somehow, we'd arrived in Shrewsbury, and found our way to the evenings rather quirky Air B&B location.





Daily Digits...

121.5km's completed (running total of 1022km's)
6:09hrs moving time
540m climbed
19.7km/h average speed
43.7km/h top speed
1hr blacked out


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Long Road to Wigan

Following on from the quaint and touristy havens of the Scottish Highlands, and amidst the amiable joys of a day off the saddle in the Lake District, a wet and windy ride to Wigan was always going to be a hard sell. 

Bowness-on-Windermere had been kind. Really, our home for the previous two nights, Lansdale B&B, even provided complimentary entry to a nearby spa complex, so it was a logical choice for a relaxing day off the bike. Yesterdays delightful agenda consisted of a slow breakfast, a lingering stroll, a coffee, and that very wonderfully British pastime of ambling in and out of shops in a confused but happy trance. Never causing much hassle, but never buying anything. Spending more than necessary deliberating the values of flavoured handmade soap for 20mins, and then tossing it back in the basket, and doing much the same with rustic looking posters offering homely and sarcastic quotes. Mums birthday is coming up, and several alarmingly nervous purchases were nearly made. I can only hope she likes Kendal mint cake. It was the only souvenir which was all at the same time light, thin, and securely packaged. Sauntering back outside, pregnant skies delivered a seemingly constant spray of drizzle, it felt the world and his dog had similar ideas for wasting away a Monday. Gentle hums of conversation in several different languages could be heard at every step, all dressed in pleasantly coloured variations of shower and wind proof Goretex. 

Yesterdays heavy clouds hung around and see us off this morning, and were kind enough to provide a morning shower as we climbed up and out the Lake District via Windermere and Heaning, and Kendal. The remainder, and bulk, of todays route were a mixed bag. Split just about evenly between the A6 and the cyclists Russian Roulette of NCN6 & 55. From Kendal to Lancaster, and from Lancaster to Preston, we switched between the two. Consistently battling a head wind, the A6 was a faster way of ticking off the Kilometres, while the NCN6 was scenic in it's early incarnations, and provided amble loud expletives at it's latter lack in signage, direction, and flow.

Moods were raised by coffee and cake in Lancaster (cappuccino and bakewell tart), and lunch in Preston (pizza slices, sausage baps, and a pot of tea). Post-Preston, the NCN55 followed a similar pattern of starting out in blissfully scenic weaves throughout park area, along winding country lanes, and even along an old tram track arched by trees and shade. After a promising start, we soon found ourselves tossed traditionally out in the middle of sketchy industrial estates, or thrown into dead end cul-de-sacs, or, our personal favourite, along a suburban street where the signs simply gave up and went into hiding. The latter forced us back on to the A6 where the crime of cycling quietly along the side of the road saw us spat at, and then onto the A49 for a long awaited final straight into Wigan. 

Yesterday's Google searches for lodging options had revealed Wigan to be something of a hotel/hostel/b&b bermuda triangle. Perhaps due to it's location sandwiched between the bigger brothers and brighter lights of Liverpool and Manchester, or perhaps due to the damming verdicts of George Orwell's 'Road to Wigan Pier'. Either way, sitting at our average 130km mark, we were determined to stay there. I'd feared our inevitable choice of the Premier Inn. I'd anticipated a 12hour tribute to all that's negative about England and it's hopeless addiction to chains, and uniformed drabness. However, as I sit and patter on the keys from the bar of Wigan's Premier Inn city centre branch, I'll begrudgingly admit it's all been a wonderful surprise thus far. Instead of being told the bikes would have to remain outside in the car-park's bike rack, they are tucked up in the room. Furthermore, said room is a disabled room, made available to us with the thoughts of keeping the bikes close-by, and for the ease of access the ground floor brings. Also, the disabled room comes fully equipped with a bathtub, the first of the tour. Assuming we can remain guilt free, and 120 doesn't become required by someone genuinely less-able than ourselves, we're appreciative of the spacious domain, and a relaxing soak in the tub. Even if the bathroom is all open space, white tiles, and emergency cords, it's relaxing to us. The bar area is home to myself, Emily, and four other individuals who's life story my imagination will invent. They're all solo, and despite the dark, secret, and sometimes erotic secrets their existence shields in my mind, they're probably just salesmen/women on a nightly stopover in the outer reaches of their regional area. I guess we'll never know what they make of Emily and I. We are evidently tired and weather-beaten, we smell of a heady blend of Deep heat, dampness, and toil, and we've just shared a starter and a bottle of Merlot. I guess it's time for bed.

Tomorrows destination: Shrewsbury.

Todays numbers:

114.2km's ridden (a 900.5km running total so far)
5:53hrs moving time
788m climbed
19.4km/h average speed
51.8km/h top speed
2267 calories vanished



Saturday, July 18, 2015

Juice

Morning rituals are a little different on tour. Sandwiched in-between the usual teeth brushing, stretching, yawning, and indulgent breakfast eating, are a whole host of new activities. For instance, the mushing of a handful of Savlon into the area where my genitals used to be. Also, the excessive use of Deep Heat. As six consecutive days of cycling over one hundred km's take their toll, aches and pains set in, and various parts of the body need to be smothered and massaged in the magic heat rub. This, and the fact we haven't washed our cycle kit all week, means another ritual is apologising for the smell which follows us into the breakfast room. We then find ourselves fielding several questions following on from our explanations. Questions such as, why? Another breakfast-related ritual is the discreet and mild theft of perishable goods from the buffet table. Cereal bars, fruit, yoghurt, biscuits, if they'll fit in the jersey pockets, they're ours. Finally, after settling up the bill, we ask to fill our water bottles up with fresh, and hopefully cold, water. 

Pauline is the quintessential bed and breakfast proprietor. Almost perfectly spherical, with an obvious heart of gold, she's in her element as Queen of her own castle, and ordering her King, Fran - an agreeable husband in the kitchen and/or shed, around. We ask her for water, and she insists on giving us a drop of cordial in there, for some extra taste. After vanishing with the bottles, she returns with two cordial options, orange and pink grapefruit. I go for orange, and Em for the pink grapefruit. Throughout the past week we've briefly got to know many of these kind and motherly b&b owning folk, and alongside the usual thoughts of making us want to own our own b&b someday, it made me want to gather them all together, and have a civilised afternoon tea at Lands End.

The flavoursome fuel was needed today. Though a Google Maps prediction of 92km sounds somewhat mild in comparison to yesterdays expenditure, we'd factored in the Kirkstone Pass in the Lake District. At 460m above sea level, it would be the highest we'd been since leaving Amsterdam, and the final climb of a day full of climbs.

In accompaniment to the liquid fuel, and need to re-stock on our chosen sweets - Jelly Babies for Em, and Fruit Sports Mix for me - we found ourselves out of Scotland and in Carlisle Sainsbury's for their check-out opening time of 10.30am. From there we rose, and rose along the B5299 all the way to the Lake District, and stopped for coffee in Caldbeck. Cappuccino and tea, a apricot slice and a caramel mars bar cake, not shared. Having tipped the balance in calories burned vs consumed, we winded along the A591 until it became a small, single-track lane. The views were stunning as the weather changed from stormy November clouds, to a brisk spring afternoon. Not bad for a summers day in mid-July. The A591 became the A592 and skirted along the stunning shoreline of Ullswater Lake, home of a shared lunch platter of cheese and pickle sandwiches. After winding and climbing through a few more picture postcard villages, the A592 became the Kirkstone Pass, and a brisk 92km tour leg, became a severe physical test. A test we passed, eventually. Strava tells of a moving time of 5hrs and 6mins, but an elapsed time of 9hrs and 6mins, which means that we spent 4hrs of today static. Though a supermarket visit, a coffee stop, and a lunch stop made up most of those minutes, the bulk came from catching our breath, and trying to do the scenery justice with phone cameras. Of those last two, we did plenty along the pass. 

With a celebratory beer and G&T at the summit under our belts, it was a brief downhill into home town for the night, Bowness-on-Windermere. The website of tonights guesthouse hinted at guest passes for a local spa, and check-in confirmed this. So, following the heady mix of the ice-room, therapeutic steam room, 85degree sauna, and a wonderfully authentic Italian restaurant, we decided that tomorrow will be our first full rest-day.

Tomorrows breakfast wont require theft or Savlon.



The daily digits...

Distance: 91.5km (786.3km so far)
Moving time: 5:06hrs
Calories burned: 2393
Average speed: 17.9km/h
Top speed: 58km/h
Metres climbed: 1333m

Eloping


There are still over 5000 weddings each year in Gretna Green, that's one in every six Scottish weddings. We're unsure on the statistics for Kilmarnock, but the one we got up close and personal with last night was more than enough. 

Compared with the cosiness and general 'gezelligheid' of all our nightly stops so far, Kilmarnock was always going to be a controversial choice. It was the first big city we'd encountered, and free wheeling around the centre yesterday afternoon was a depressing detour. It almost scored 'English' on the scale of drabness, with betting shops, fast food outlets, and charity stores as the only hives of human activity. The hotel wedding guests we saw matched the setting. 

Playing the role of helpless and coincidental out of town guests is never easy, but our 3am confrontation with the after-party and/or boxing match being staged in the room next door was less than welcoming, and made for little in the way of rest. Following a sleepless night, it's a small miracle we made it all the way to Gretna Green today. At 143km, our longest day so far. With the days first ten kilometres uphill, and the rest a relative downhill breeze. Strong winds rallied around till they blew at our backs, and we reached a new tour top speed of 61.9km/h. That sped us along the A57 and towards a pot of tea and a coconut and lemon slice at Shaquhar before 11am, and a pannini lunch in Dumfries before 3pm. From Dumfries we followed National Cycle Route 7 along the River Nith all the way to Gretna Green. With dinner done, a small feast of pasta and chicken, a quick stroll around the village green saw 3 wedding receptions in full flow. Thankfully, none are taking place at the B&B we're calling home for the night.

If the usual tradition is eloping to Gretna, our day was more like quietly and purposefully eloping away from Kilmarnock. By way of taking some mild retribution in our own hands, and giving karma a helping hand. We left the marimba tones morning alarm ringing and vibrating through the paper thin walls at 7am, and we neglected to settle our dinner bill with what was a lax and arrogant hotel staff. Oh, and we also stole five greedy handfuls of biscuits from the bar. That's karma. 

Here in Gretna, we're back to B&B's run by eclectic and quirky folk, who are all in bed by 10pm.



Day Six in digits...

142.8km's ridden (694.8 weekly total)
6:24hrs pedalling time
873 metres climbed
2850 calories burned
22.3km/h average speed
61.9km/h top speed
0.5 tubes of Deep Heat used



Thursday, July 16, 2015

Flat, Grey and Windy

Following the heartiest of hearty breakfasts, the first kilometres of day five were hard work. Weather forecasts became a gloating reality, and an already grey sky knitted itself further together to make a solid, drab wall in the sky. Accompanying gale force winds, for once not emanating from my vicinity, swept from the waters edge and continually smothered us from the right. Progress was slow but admirably steady. Continuing south along the coast, safe in the knowledge Em was close behind, I slipped into a thigh-powered trance. The winds became a blur, and my legs not my own. This delightful witchcraft lasted a fair distance, until I was awoken by the odd sight of an Italian Bistro in this remote part of Scotland. Turning around to enlighten Emily with this discovery, I discovered she wasn’t anywhere to be seen. I waited, and waited, and mildly panicked. Phone signal was intermittent, but strong enough to show six missed calls. Puncture number one. Happily, there were no other cyclists or tourers to witness our fumbled attempts to rectify the problem. Broken tools, make-up brushes posing as tools, and a discovery that Em’s spare inner tubes were the wrong size, resulted in our heading to a conveniently located hotel bar for a coffee. After mild dithering, a cappuccino, and a green tea, I cycled to the next town with Em’s wheel, and Em followed with the rest of her bike in a taxi.

With the wind ever increasing, and new weather warnings in place, we decided to head to the haven that is Kilmarnock, and re-access the situation there. Already leaning heavily towards the ‘fuck it, lets stop’ line of thought, this was cemented as we inadvertently found ourselves bouncing along a motorway somewhere between Irvine and Kilmarnock.

Last night represented the final night of our pre-booked accommodation, a blissful Air BnB stopover with, by chance, other bike-touring enthusiasts. A massive pasta dinner, followed by apple crumble, and wonderful tales of Helen & Ed's cycling adventures all over the world, all made for a sweet evening. One of their pearls of wisdom was simply going with the flow, and of knowing when to cut losses. The 'when' was 3pm. The 'where' was just outside Kilmarnock. Battling the perils of the wind, repairing flat tyres, and my niggling painful ankle, had seen us grow weary. So, as we received the news that we'd missed lunch, and the Fox Bar Restaurant & Hotel kitchen wasn't open till 5.30, we inquired about a room for the night with an air of contented resignation.

At the local pharmacy we purchased Deep Heat, and once the kitchen was open we ordered steak pie, and macaroni cheese. In the room we re-routed tomorrow's pedalling, and looked for accommodation in Gretna Green.

Km's completed: 58.8
Pedalling time: 2.59hrs
Average speed: 19.6km/h
Wind speeds: 40km/h
Punctures: 1


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sheila

I woke up dreaming that it might just have been our destiny to stay in Taynuilt, and for time to stand still. As the blue skies became yesterdays history, we awoke in the same village but with different tones. Breakfast was sluggish in service but generous in portion, which made for a sluggish start to the days cycling. After sweating through two early climbs, and buoyed on by workmen's cheers, we found momentum. The morning saw us skirting alongside two beautiful lochs, winding around ruined castles, passing through gentle villages such as Inverary, and all the time gliding (for the majority) downhill on smooth surfaces. Life was good and the pit-stops were textbook. Granola and chocolate slice, shared.

The post coffee stop, but pre-lunch route followed pretty much the same pattern. Although less fellow cyclists were spotted, it was a serene joy to not spot much at all. Quiet b-roads finally lived up to their name, and we found ourselves hypnotised by the hum of tyre on tarmac, water lapping at loch edge, and ticking off mental kilometres. A few lunch stops came and went with this rhythm, which is a good thing because if we'd have been 100% focused upon finding a good lunch stop, we'd never have found the gem of a diner that we did. Located shortly after a sweeping curve on the A815, Sheila's Diner is a beautiful mix of 1980's USA tribute combined with traditional British cafes which only seem to exist in storybooks, or my imagination. Em had a starter portion of chicken nuggets, and although it was far too late in the day, I couldn't resist a sausage sandwich. Thanks, Sheila, you were just the ticket.

Of course, the beautiful thing about a late lunch, is that it's no time at all till dinner. Plus, we'd chalked off the majority of the days designated kilometres, and, the majority of those which remained would be completed by ferry. The A815 took us a little further along the coast, and the Hunters Quay to McCllroys Point car ferry took us across the water to Ayrshire. Waiting in Ayrshire, Skelmorlie to be precise, were Helen and Ed. Our first experience of booking with Air BnB, and by coincidence, two expert bike tourers. Que dinner, wine, and a blissful evening hearing of bike travel in Thailand, China, India, Burma, and other far-flung, captivating destinations. Our destination tomorrow: Kilmarnock.



The fourth day in numbers...


Kilometres ridden: 118.6 (493 total so far)
Hours moving: 5:20
Meters climbed: 1489
Calories burned: 3272
Ferrys boarded: 1
Cake portions devoured: 3
Emily flashing her bottom: 1
Evening hours talking to Helen and Ed: 3


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Fraternity

All it took was three days. Having started the tour as a novice bicycle tourist, and a non-conformist novice at that, the third day saw conversations at bars and breakfast tables where I more than held my own in talk of routes, paniers, kilometre to rest-stop ratios and the like. Many people we met were curious about mine and Emily's decision to go on road bikes, and some obviously impressed with our minimalistic packing methods. It was all good, and along with waving, nodding, and even saluting passing cyclists, felt like it inducted us into some two-wheeled fraternity. The bulk of todays episode in this journeys series of ups and downs was on and off National Cycle Route 78. It runs from Oban to Fort William, and represented our first chance to meet other JOGLE-ists and LEJOG-ers, hence all the waving and saluting. 

Having stayed in a hostel last night, we felt guilty for setting an alarm for 07.15. Breakfast was served from 07.30, and we wanted to get an early start. Nicely, our guilt was mis-guided as all hostel-stayers in the Highlands were up at the same time in order to hike, cycle, kayak, or drive. Such is the beautiful hive of blissful outdoors and human activity we find ourselves in. This did mean that we had to queue for luke-warm beans on toast, cereal, and tea. Fuelled by the beans, much to Em's horror, we were on the road for 9am somewhat un-sure where that hour and a half went.

The A82, which had been such a persistent friend yesterday, served us again for the first half of todays route. We neglected the appropriately named Great Glen Way for rumours of sharp gravel, and therefore risk of punctures. The A82 rose and slipped away, and repeated that pattern all along Loch Lochy, all under clear blue skies and the kind of sunshine which leaves embarrassing tan lines for lycra-clad cyclists. Undeterred by all of these, we made it to the town of Fort William and Cafe 115 for the mornings coffee and cake break, and for the first time, didn't share. Scone and jam for the lady, carrot cake for the gentleman.

Morning's A82 became the afternoon's A828, and views of Loch Lochy were replaced by views of Loch Linnhe. Needless to say in these southern Highlands, the road rose and dropped in a consistent fashion. A fashion which paved the way for aches and pains that only much older people should be subject to. By the time we stopped for lunch, my sympathies for mum and her arthritis had increased ten-fold. For food enthusiasts, or the plain nosey, lunch was a shared platter of ham sandwiches, salad, and crisps on a plate. Merrily washed down with a gin and tonic for her, and a pint of Tennants for me. Being sat on the deck in blazing sunshine, and a stones throw from the waters edge, the alcohol seemed a wise call at the time. Yes, this is a cycling challenge, but it's also a holiday! An hour later, and progress had slowed back on the wheels. It reminded me of the time I helped a friend and his garden decking business for the summer. Where we had a couple of lunchtime beers, and promptly fell asleep in the garden. There could be no sleeping yet though, we had a hotel reservation 35miles away.

Winding down those final digits on rare roadside sign posts, the confusion between miles and kilometers kept getting the better of me. Taynuilt was reticent to reveal itself. Some more climbs, a couple of bridges with epic views and lorries passing inches away, some more climbs, and then a final gentle decent, and the view of the brilliant white Taynuilt Hotel appeared.

Mark, this evenings General Manager, kindly locked our bikes up in the wine cellar of all places, we can only hope they have a restful night and take it easy, we've all got another big day tomorrow.

So, day three in numbers...

Kilometers ridden: 128.1 (total so far: 374.4)
Meters climbed: 1997
Top speed: 49.7km/h
Average speed: 21.5km/h
Calories burned: 3418 (approx)



Monday, July 13, 2015

Stop. Go. Repeat.

"Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realise that fishing is stupid and boring" (Desmond Tutu)

The second day on the saddles bought a much-welcomed feeling of rhythm. Pedalling with a mild sense of direction, but a heightened sense of purpose. Something which both reflected and continued a clumsy but well-intended morning's breakfast in bed. Sule Skerry B&B is an absolute definition of all the wonderful things a bed and breakfast should be. Kate, the undisputed hostess with the mostess, brought a versatile and hearty breakfast to the room, where we promptly dispatched it in bed, along with an admirable John and Yoko impression.


On the road by 9am, we were met with the inevitable: light drizzle. However, far from being a pain, it was a welcome addition to the list of things which might distract us from nicely developing aches and pains. Even when the rain increased it's intensity to the 'spray back to make your bum wet' setting, it was still relatively pleasant. After another encounter with the A9 to take us from Royal Dornoch to Tain, we threw our collected destiny into the hands of the Sustrans gods. Based in Bristol, Sustrans are the UK Cycling Agency. They are, amongst other things, responsible for the sign-posting of National Cycle Routes. In my hometown of Northampton, these sign posts seem to gain a level of sadistic pleasure by picking the un-suspecting cyclist up, toying with them on various surfaces of pavements, roads, glass, and gravel, before spitting them back out into industrial estates, or suburbs no-one's ever heard of. We're delighted to report that NCN1, which we picked up in Tain, did none of the above. Instead, it was a blissfully quiet mix of B roads, and delivered us safely and securely to Dingwall where we promptly stopped for coffee and cake.

Following a slightly busier B road and then an A road, we then made our way up and down, but mostly up, towards the majesty that is Loch Ness. Re-fuelled by caffeine and calories, our collective rhythm intensified, and we were making great strides. Together, we owned several significant hills, and laughed all the way down them. As can be expected, the contours conspired to put us back in our places. On the final downhill towards our fist glimpse of the famous Loch, everything came relatively close to ending. The signs warned of a 15% gradient and advised some kind of red-framed caution. What they didn't warn of was a road surface of questionable flatness. Imagine trying to cycle down a steep hill, weighed down with luggage, on an unknown road, on surface which seemed to resemble cycling on an old carpet layered on top of a few hundred golf balls, that's what it was like. After a top speed of 59.8km/h, and a time frame of less than a minute, we collected our selves, limbs, and thoughts, and pedalled calmly on to Fort Augusts.

We arrived. We showered. We walked. We ate. We both belched. We slept.

Day two in digits...

Kilometers ridden: 117.6 (week so far: 237)
Meters climbed: 1102
Hours pedalling: 5.11
Average speed: 22.7km/h
Top speed: 59.8km/h




Stoic


"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of a country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle." (Ernest Hemingway)


Perhaps stoic isn't the most encouraging word to describe the first day of a long cycling adventure. The first days journal entry usually consists of tales featuring childlike energy and exuberance, but departing John O'Groats slightly uphill and under a threateningly heavy grey sky, stoic we were. Defiantly pedalling, with bikes and bodies heavily laden with luggage and Jelly Beans. A coffee and cake stop 25km down the road in Wick saw spirits lifted, and back pains ceased. Cappuccino and a white chocolate and caramel slice, shared. Spirits were lifted further still by the chance meeting with an old friend of Emily. The collective forces of social media and sheer coincidence combined to make Tom make the short drive from his parents place in Keiss, to track us down on the A99. Had he tracked us down a moment earlier, he'd have caught Em relieving herself in a bush while I casually chatted to two lambs.

Yesterday we took three trains. The first from Newcastle to Edinburgh allowed demonstration for the best and worst of good, hearty British customer services. Despite reserving ourselves and bikes on the trains several months ago, the designated cycle racks were buried under a rainbow of suitcases. A forceful yet agreeable employee took pleasure in throwing our precious transport against each other, and the train door, and ushered us into a first class carriage. After the kind of doubt we brits are famed for, we decided to sit ourselves down in the first class carriage and enjoy plush chairs, complimentary sandwiches and tea. Clumsy conductor became friend when he glanced a smile in our direction, neglected to check our tickets, and left us to enjoy some cheese and pickle snacks. Sadly, that train journey only lasted an hour and a half. The Edinburgh to Inverness, and Inverness to Thurso legs were four and a half hours each, and involved cramping, noise, no free snacks, but beautiful scenery unfolding out the window.

This afternoon we enjoyed those same views as the never-ending A99 and A9 trundle alongside yesterday's train lines. The vastness and poetic emptiness of north Scotland was evident throughout, and meant there were no further pit-stops of note till Helmsdale, some 75km later. Bacon and brie sandwiches with a pot of tea, and a door stop slice of lemon and raspberry cake, all shared.

Having never completed and long distance bicycle touring before today, I can now fully affirm that; a) Scotland is really fucking hilly, windy, and beautiful, b) people both here and the world over are generally kind hearted folk, c) what goes up must surely come down, and d) my bag is too heavy. After several lingering climbs, frantic descents, and road side stops in order to swear and remove my weighty luggage for a few moments, we still found ourselves on the A9, and Dornoch was still 7 miles away. Those last miles were clocked up with a grimace, and eventually we escaped the breezy clutches of the East Coast for smooth tarmac and a descending B road into Dornoch. We can only presume the B stands for bloomin' marvellous. 

For fans of numbers and stats, please see below...

Km's ridden: 128.6
Accumulative total: 128.6
Meters climbed: 1319
Calories burnt: 2629
Riding time: 6.27
Average speed: 19.8km/h
Top speed: 55 km/h
Old friends met: 1
Packets of Jelly Babies devoured: 1
Hill climbs walked: 2
Roadkill displayed: 38
Dead deer: 1
Beef & haggis sausages making up my bangers and mash: 4
Falls: 0

The official weight on my backpack remains unknown, but if you bore witness to a slightly crazed man feeding the village clothes donation box with cycling gear, a cumbersome lock, and an un-used and sealed bar of soap, i'd like to apologise, and fall asleep with a healthy conscience. Another day of similar proportions lays in store tomorrow, one only hopes that also refers to the size of the dinner plate and wine glass.

Sleep tight, y'all.
- Glenn (and Emily) x


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

What's in a Backpack?

Wednesday morning, 10.30am. The second cappuccino of the day, and a moment out of time. I find myself casually dressed in a cycling jersey, underpants, and bed hair. After a delightfully busy couple of days entertaining a friend from Colombia, Mara, she has taken herself to the Van Gogh Museum this morning. Emily is at work, which leaves me home alone, and laying everything we might need for the next few weeks on the apartment floor. 

Shit. We're really planning to cycle 2000km through Scotland and England in 4 days time.

Our prep has been just as we envisage the cycling; slow, steady, and fuelled by generous and frequent food and drink stops. Hospitality conquers all. Having managed to service the bikes last week, this week sees a delicate level of attention fall upon what we plan carry with us for the 2-3 weeks. After consulting the scarily attentive and detailed world of bike touring internet forums, there seems to be 2 polar opposite schools of thought regarding bicycle travel. On the one end of the spectrum are the beautiful and liberated hippy throwbacks. They cycle on old mountain bikes found in waste dumps a short walk from home. They scorn anyone traveling with gadgets which require re-charging, and go with the wind. Wearing hemp t-shirts and swimwear, these people wild camp along the roadside, pick berries and leaves for fuel, wash in streams and lakes, and have no pressing 'must finish by' timeline. Bastards.  On the opposite end of the scale, there are the people with high-end and expensive touring bicycles. They travel with GPS, wi-fi, a mobile photography studio, luxury 4-man tents, designer cycling clothes, and an 'off the bike' wardrobe to match. These items are carried in waterproof bags, and carefully attached to their bikes. They have the option of camping or paying for the nicer hotels.

We like to think of ourselves as swinging gently towards the hippy end of the scale, with a liking of Apple products, and a discerning taste in mid-range B&B's.

On all the LEJOG or JOGLE travel blogs it seems the done thing to post your packing list, so without further ado, please find ours detailed below...

For the Bike:
Puncture repair kit
2 x spare inner tubes
Tyre levers
Multi-tool
Pump
Dry-lube
Water bottles
1 rear rack and bag (for Emily)
1 backpack (for Glenn)

For the Riders:
2 x cycle jerseys
2 x padded cycle shorts
Cycling shoes
Sports bra (Emily only)
Waterproof jacket
Base layer
2 pairs of cycle socks
Helmet
Sunglasses
Bandana
Savlon
Toiletries etc
Washing powder
Sporks (to aid supermarket lunch stops)
Laminated maps & direction notes
Passports

For the Pubs:
Casual shoes
T-shirts & jumpers
Underwear

For the National Grid:
2 x iPhones
Macbook Pro
Selfie-Stick (don't hate, it's just for this trip)
Chargers
UK-EU adaptor

For the Soul:
2 x pens
NYC Bike Snob journal
Book


Wednesday afternoon, 13.30. Mara's done with the Van Gogh, and Emily's finished early. Time for lunch.