Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Day 9 penny farthing lejog

The familiar morning routine continued at 7:00am and we woke up to a beautiful day in the Lake district. Our hot buffet breakfast was amazing and I took full advantage of the calories on offer! It's amazing how much you can eat when you are cycle touring.
After breakfast we checked out and were reunited with our bikes that had been locked away in the guest house garage. Towards the end of yesterday I had noticed my rear wheel had gone slightly out of true so before setting off I got my spoke key out and did my first bit of maintenance in about 500 miles. 10 minutes later we were underway again, I was really looking forward to today as the Lake district is seriously beautiful and as an added bonus there was every chance that we might make it to Scotland by dark.

We'd been cycling for about 15 minutes when we encountered a rather unexpected problem, a cow had escaped from a field and was causing chaos on the road. I didn't fancy my chances against half a tonne of beef so I got off the bike and kept at a safe distance until the cow was recaptured.

The cow was relocated into a field and we cycled on. Or more acuratley I should say Mickey cycled on and I pushed up the hills, cycled a bit and pushed some more. At this stage of the journey I had come to terms with the slow progress and it didn't bother me. It did mean that Mickey and I ended up cycling alone for quite large periods of time as I just couldn't keep up. This worked out fine though as it gave Mickey plenty of time to stop now and again to check the map. Although we were both recording our rides to strava we chose not to follow a gps sat nav as we felt this takes away from some of the adventure of cycle touring.

The hilly terrain did provide us with ample opportunities to stop and take photos. I've been to the lake district quite a few times and this time we were so lucky with the weather. It can be pretty unpleasant but today we got lucky, but snow was forecast for tomorrow..

Considering we were cycling together for such a long time we haven't ended up with many photos with both of us in. This one was taken by a fascinated motorist who stopped to ask us about our journey.

After an hour or so our route must have taken us onto some roads that were being used for a local cycling event. Suddenly it wasn't just Mickey that was cycling past me, large groups of road cyclists shot by on the downhills. A few slowed up to chat to me and they asked how far I was going. I replied "today probably only about 60 miles." They were amazed and then one of them asked where I had come from. I replied, "well I started at lands end 9 days ago and I hope to be in John O'Groats in a further 5." They couldnt believe it!

The day was going well, it was slow progress but we were looking good to finish the day in Scotland. Then events took a turn for the unexpected. I was riding slowly up a gradual incline and I noticed I seemed to be having to fight the handlebars to keep the bike going in a straight line. To start with I thought it was just my arms getting tired, but the sensation continued even on the flat roads. I got off and checked the bike over but couldn't see anything obviously wrong so I remounted and continued.
Mickey was some way ahead at this point as the hilly terrain had split us up, so I pushed on thinking that when we regrouped we could both take a look at the bike. Unfortunately I didn't ride the bike much further. Climbing up a slight gradient the steering almost locked solid and I had to jump off. It was now obvious something was not right. I phoned Mickey to ask him to stop and wait as I was going to have to walk to meet him. I wasn't carrying any tools other than a spoke key, Mickey had some in his panniers and I hoped that we could sort the problem out, but I wasn't that confident.

After a long walk of about 30 mins we regrouped and I set about dismantling the bike at the roadside.

I was quite worried about what I might find. There was clearly something wrong with the steering but the bike is so simple it doesn't even have any bearings in the head tube. Hopefully when I got it to pieces I would find it was just a lack of grease that was causing the problem but I couldn't help thinking it was something worse. If the steering tube was damaged in any way it was going to be ride over and the end of the adventure. I  cleaned off the old grease and the steering taper looked fine, all I could do was reassemble everything and hope the new grease had sorted it.
After half an hour of roadside bike surgery the bike was ready for a test. I tentatively mounted the bike and started to pedal. To my releaf it seemed to be OK, our journey was not ending at the roadside outside a petrol station, we were good to ride on.

For the rest of the day we rode together just incase i had any more problems, Mickey waited for me on the hills and rode along slowly with me on the flat. My bike seemed to be fine and Scotland was only just around the corner.

The hills of the lake district were now behind us. Considering the tough terrain, and the unexpected mechanical, we had made great progress. England was done, I'd cycled the length of the country on my penny farthing and when we reached the welcome to Scotland sign post the enormaty of that achievement hit me. I was now a long, long way from home and although we still had some tough days ahead of us I felt for the first time that without doubt I would get to John O'Groats.

Although we had been on the road for a long time today we both felt strong and we pushed on. This first part of Scotland is fairly flat and we were keen to make progress. The weather today was good, a bit windy but not bad at all. Unfortunately, the forecast for tomorrow was not good. There was every chance we were going to get snowed on.

As we cycled on and passed the 60 mile mark for the day my legs stared to get tired, my legs suddenly felt weak. It was no surprise given the tough terrain of the lake district so we stopped, used my phone to get on line and found a local hotel that had a room for the night. The hotel turned out to be one of the best we stayed at all trip. At first glance, looking at it on the internet on my phone it just looked like a cheap place to stay. It was on offer at £39 a night in total for both of us including breakfast. I was tired and neither of us were fussy about where we stayed so we checked in.

As soon as we were inside it seemed too good to be true, a lovely spacious room and a really good shower. Our bikes stayed inside in an unused function room and they had a 3 course food menu on for £5:95 each. The food turned out to be lovely and the beer was fantastic, they could have charged us double and it would still have been excellent value.

So, England was done, and without too many difficulties. Hopefully our journey through Scotland would go just as well. So far apart from a few windy days we had been lucky with the weather, but that was about to change.

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