The Travelblog

Day 0: The drive up

A bonus – the Seaview Hotel in John o’Groats has a wireless network, so we can kick off the blog before the ride even starts.  I was last in this part of the world 25 years ago and clearly things have moved on; Wick has an out of town 24 hour Tesco superstore.  Even Caithness isn’t immune from the pandemic of destination shopping.  Mind you, we weren’t complaining when it gave us our day one supply of Mars bars.

Before going any further, I should introduce who’s on the trip: Charles and Andy (riding – the latter is today’s blogger), and Steffi and Cara (Andy’s wife and youngest daughter – in the support vehicle).  Steffi thinks she has to drive all day tomorrow at 15mph so we can slipstream as we ride into the wind.  Not true, of course – that would be cheating – the girls are free to sample the tourist delights of Caithness tomorrow.

Another good thing about starting the blog from Day Zero: some content is guaranteed.  I’m feeling more nervous about the bike ride than I was while contemplating it from the comfortable vantage point of the East Midlands.  Looking from John o’Groats west on the road to Thurso (A836 I think – our route tomorrow once we have posed for the traditional picture by the signpost) it all feels quite daunting.  We arrived early this evening in torrential rain, with a howling westerly wind, and temperature feeling about 10 degrees less than at home.  The view along the road to Thurso was I imagine not too different to what a squaddie might have seen scrambling ashore at Goose Green in 1982.  Looking along that road into the wind and rain made the challenge feel a whole lot more real than anything google maps could manage.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is an 84 mile effort that culminates in a 700 foot climb to Crask Inn, where we will be staying the night.  There is nothing within about a ten mile radius of the place.  The people who stay there are either End-to-End cyclists or astronomers; reputedly Crask Inn has the lowest level of light pollution of anywhere on mainland Britain.  The mental image I have is the pub early on in “American Werewolf in London”.  But I’m sure it will be very cosy and welcoming.

It was a fairly uneventful drive up here, but very tiring.  560 miles, 10 hours of driving, couple of minor road rage episodes.  It started to get more interesting once we got past Perth: apart from the absolutely stunning scenery, a cricket match with the fielding side wearing kilts and a group of bikers wearing purple Roman centurion costumes over their leathers were the highlights.

So this is it – no backing out now!

Hi Charles here

The journey up was pretty relaxing, since did none of the driving a real rarity for me. The scenery was spectacular, I’ve never been this far north before, and something I’m really looking forward to is seeing areas I have never seen before – the camera will get some serious use!

When we arrived as Andy has said the weather was awful, so I was dreading this morning. I woke up at 4am to the view of a beautiful sunrise – fantastic. Having had my fill of breakfast I’m ready to go.

To view pictures of Day Zero click here


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