We woke up the next morning and remembered that we didn’t have to get up early. Would our lycra-accustomed skin come out in a rash on contact with cotton? Did Malcolm still have to do the dead beetle exercises, of which I had only lately learned?
He lies on his back with his legs in the air, sometimes propped against the wall and that allows the blood to drain from his legs. He says that he has been told that this will aid the recovery of his gammy leg but I think it might be a secret yoga training regime. He certainly scooted up those hills yesterday. Why else since they have been sharing a triple room, have Andrew and Jeff joined in? As I believe Malcolm’s yoga teacher might say “Fab workout, boys”.
Sheena did not let us down with the final cooked breakfast and Alastair regaled us with tales of his racing wins.
Lindsay from Ticket to Ride arrived early to pick us and our bikes up to take us to Inverness Airport. Before we had time to offer assistance, he had secured two of our bikes on a very nifty roof rack with the aid of a ladder and a remotely controlled securing arm in a one man operation, which contrasted sharply in efficiency with our multi-team efforts to load the Horsman-mobile bike rack. Time for a final team photo. We bade au revoir to the support car; Anne and Mike are spending a week touring Scotland, when unhindered by pesky cyclists, they should be able to fit in at least 4 castles (royal or otherwise) and a couple of churches a day before returning home via Annie’s in Edinburgh.
All aboard the very comfortable VW Caravelle. Lindsay runs a very efficient service built from scratch over the past few years, initially to supplement his bike hire shop in Inverness – now it’s almost the other way round with c. 100 transfers a year.
Jeff wishes it to be recorded that not once did he did need to stop the bus to visit a hedge throughout the 126 mile journey. However, he did need regular handouts of tablet. We followed the A9 coastal road back to Inverness and did not meet the route we cycled until late on: we were glad not to have cycled the A9 direct route which may have been shorter but not only was quite busy even on a Sunday but also had some wickedly steep hills.
I am being egged on by my fellow travellers to continue this blog but who really wants to know about our 4-hour wait in Inverness Airport – the Easyjet flight back to Luton was only 5 minutes late departing, we were just there very early because the journey from JOG was so straightforward.
Malcolm did provide further excitement scurrying back to the bus because he thought that he had left something behind: it was a false alarm but a master faffer has to put in the practice to keep his skills honed. I had to prove my hand luggage was not oversize by squeezing it into the luggage gauge, which apparently was amusing. I however passed straight through security with the good wishes of the security officer whereas the other three needed to be detained for one full luggage search and two full body frisks. Perhaps more worryingly than having such dodgy travelling companions was the fact that Jane’s titanium hip did not set off the scanner alarm, which it always has in the past.
That really is enough travelogue, otherwise I will have to give vent to my full Victor Meldrew on the state of customer care in this country. I have been challenged again on the size of my holdall. Maybe it has spontaneously expanded on the trek from check-in to embarkation desk? No, once again I squeeze it successfully into the luggage gauge. Don’t they know that my doctor is concerned about my blood pressure? They only let me on the plane when I promise not to use my water bottle a la Gerard Depardieu (these receptacles were put to such use in 2003 but as this a family blog you will have to ask Mike for the full details).
Andrew carries out a risk assessment at Luton baggage reclaim and decides it is necessary to don his cycle helmet. Then at the arrivals gate Clan Allen is out in full strength complete with Joanne waving a congratulations banner to welcome home their Clan Chief Sir Stilllimpingabit and his fellow returning knights (surely at least OBEs must be in the post).
Heidi was in the car park with Pug Alfie to pick up those whose name was not Allen and kindly return us to Tewin.
And so now all there remains to do (for those bored by Oscar acceptance speeches please look away now) is to thank all of you for your support, kind comments, messages and donations. We have certainly beaten our fund-raising target thanks to the overwhelming generosity of friends and family. We still have quite a lot of cash contributions to collect and cheques to count on top of the current JustGiving total: I will add a postscript of our final total in due course. Thanks again to our support crews and I hope it doesn’t offend Richard, Paul or Anne if I give special thanks to my favourite support crew member, my best pal Jane, who has been a real brick for allowing me out in the first place and without whom I probably would not have made it at all. Thanks to the Gnome for her technical support, without which the blog may never have seen the light of day (and no thanks at all to Vodafone for your pathetic 3G coverage and to the woeful wi- fi coverage in British inns, which nearly did see off the publication). And finally (you can put the tissues away now) thanks to my fellow riders Graham, Ian, Will, Mike and (short but sweet) David and particularly to Sir Stilllimpingabit, Sir Eatalot and and Sir Talkalot for their companionship, support and good humour, even after reading this blog. We had a good time.
I was welcomed home by the Gnome and her sister (Louise and Laura) who must have inherited their father’s sense of humour because their idea of a Father’s day present was the following:
But they redeemed themselves with a delicious dinner of roast pork and a wonderful decorated apple pie:
Now I wait for the call from Hollywood to negotiate the film rights. In your cinemas next year starring Meryl Streep as Support Driver, Anne Horsman and Robin Williams as Andrew Swift….. Tewin Cyclists -The Movie. In the hours you will have available as this blog closes down, if you really have too much time on your hands you can play a parlour game to cast the other players. I hope we do not have too much trouble finding Malcolm’s stunt double.
Answers to FAQ:
Q: Did you enjoy the trip?
Q: Is 3 and a half weeks a long time time to be away?
A: Yes, too long
Q: Did it all really happen?
A: Yes, we really did it. All the characters are real and all the events recorded actually occurred, although a little blogger’s licence may have been occasionally applied to artificially enhance the reader’s experience.
Q: What distances were you cycling?
A: An average of 52.5 miles per day (not counting the car ride across Dartmoor)
Q: Would you do it again?
A: I would like to drive it, particularly the Scottish sections, in my Speedster because it would be a fantastic road trip and I would like more time to visit some of the sights but life’s too short to take another 3 and half weeks to repeat the expedition on a bike. We’ve won the right to the Tshirt now and there are other places to see.
Q: When will you get back on the bike?
A: Not sure not because I experience a Steve Redgrave “shoot me if I ……” moment but because there’ s so much else to catch up on, but soon and surprisingly my behind is not too sore to discourage me even today although the rest of the body is feeling a bit rickety.
Q: Will you do another cycle trip?
A: Yes, we will definitely have more cycling holidays but with lower daily mileages to have time to stop and stare.
Q: Where did you get your team kit?
A: Shirtlab (www.shirtlab.co.uk) supplied the polo shirts and they were brilliant; the cycle shirts were equally good quality but the Portugese based supplier (www.carvalhocustom.com) failed miserably in their customer care when delivering XL shirts with chest measurements 6in wider than advertised and then quoting a 3-4 week replacement delivery period despite knowing our trip dates, which means that they will probably arrive sometime later this week!
Q: What are you going to do now?
A: Catch up with my life. This expedition rather took over with months of planning and then for the past month I have done little but cycle, eat, drink, sleep and blog. Not opened a newspaper in 3 weeks nor turned the TV on, other than to watch the weather forecast when sharing a room with Jeff obviously. Sibling needs a bit of support with the funeral and other arrangements (Tuesday 26 June, Orpington Methodist Church).
Over and out from the Tewin Cyclist.
Paul Tipper 1951 – 2009
Graham Horsman 1951 – 2010
Pamela Marjorie Room 1926 – 2012