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



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