Well, we knew what we were in for before we set off. The weather forecast for the north of Scotland was set for high winds and heavy rain for the second day of our trip up, and for the first day of the main event. The rest of the journey promised to be ok. Armed with all appropriate wet weather gear, we met at Tot Hill McDonalds to start the great adventure.
The one thing I was going to get hand-baggy about was the schedule. I spent hours working out exactly where we needed to be at exactly what time, in order to make sure we were at an open fuel stop or appropriate place for food, and that we reached our final destinations in time for dinner before they stopped cooking. So, it came as no surprise that S.L.U.F.F arrived 10 minutes after the start time.
Anyway, off we went and headed north, sacrificing the first stop at Cherwell Valley so we could get back on schedule. The first set back came toward the top of the A1(M). We were due to come off and head west across the Yorkshire Dales, but they had closed the road a couple of junctions before our exit. A few re-calculations on the map and we were soon back on route and back on schedule. The only other memorable event for day one was the now familiar sound of the alarm on Phil's bike, sounding at least once at every stop.
Some lovely scenery over the Dales on on into the lake District and everything went smoothly. We arrived at our overnight stop in good time and settled in for the night. We all agreed that the Lochinvar Hotel at St John’s Town of Dalry, was good value for money. Now, I was certain that Phil was gonna be a snorer. But at we settle down for the night, only the steady sound of deep breathing filled the air, and a good nights sleep followed.
Day 2 began, and Sluff needed oil. Why, if you have a bike that uses oil, would you not bring oil with you on an 1850 mile trip?!! Come on Phil, answer that one! Anyhow, a couple of stops later and he was topped up. Then came the rain. And more rain. And a little more rain for good measure. Rain suits came out and went on. At one stage Steph resorting to hand and foot covers earning him the nickname Zoidberg from Futurama, as his hands now resembled large claws. All his was ultimately in vain though, as both Steph and Phil got thoroughly soaked. Me? I was bone dry in my aptly named 'Bone Dry' Oxford rain-suit. And my boots stayed water tight too. Lol.
More stunning scenery followed, through the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and up through the Great Glen. Made no less impressive by the low cloud and constant rain. We reached John O'Groats on time and in good spirits. A testament to the hours spent on the bloody schedule, and settled in to the Hotel. I have to say, top marks to The Seaview Hotel at J.O.G. Lovely decor, smart rooms with radiators burning hot, ready to dry off all that wet gear. The room was laid out with three single beds in a neat row and the shower have instant and very hot water. Top notch indeed. We headed off to dinner.
Now this is where the only blot on the entire trip occurred. I had been keeping a little secret all day. It was the anniversary of my big crash. One year to the day, that I came off the bike breaking two ribs and puncturing my lung. Safe in the knowledge that no more riding was to follow this day, I told the others. Oops! Tempted fate a little too soon. As the wind gusted up to 60mph and the rain came down, we headed out to secure the bikes overnight. The idea was to put the front wheels together and chain the three up. But, as I lifted my bike off it’s side-stand, the wind blasted past. Now the side of my ST1100 resembles the equivalent of a barn door as far as the wind is concerned, and as the wind blew, Jezebel was taken over past her tipping point, taking me off balance. She then decided that a game of Dominoes was in order, and promptly fell into Steph’s bike, sending both crashing to the floor. Half drunken revelers from the bar, came to my assistance to right the bikes, before I began stomping around cursing my birth and wondering why I had been so stupid as to tempt fate. We assessed the damage. A broken screen on Jezebel, a small piece of plastic cover and a broken indicator wire. Steph’s bars were bent back about an inch and a half on the right side. A bent lever and broken grip end. Bugger!! It was all going so well! We eventually assessed that both bikes were rideable after a few minor fixes, and I spent most of the rest of the evening and following morning apologising. And yes, when it mattered most, I was proved right. Phil snored like an Ogre!
The big day arrived. The rain was moderate, but made worse by the still howling winds as we set off from the Hotel, the short distance to the J.O.G site. The signpost was closed due to the high winds, so the only picture opportunity was one of us lined up on the start line, before we began. Timed receipt from the shop at 10.33hrs and we set off. Mildly disconcerting to say the least, riding with no screen, in pouring rain having to lean right into the gusting wind as you negotiate a left hand bend! However, at our first stop at Dunrobin Castle, the sun came out, and after a few more showers, by the time we got south of Inverness, the journey was mostly fair weather.
Light relief on the journey was mostly supplied by Phil’s bike - Brazon. The alarm becoming a constant feature of every stop, and the chain oiler packing up, meaning another search for a suitable oil to be regularly applied at fuel stops. The night drew in and boy it got cold. No screen meant for a cold Bobby, with heated grips and hand-muffs being the only comfort. We stayed on or slightly ahead of schedule for the entire trip down with all bikes behaving, apart from the little niggles i’ve already mentioned.
On the morning of day 4, we arrived at Land’s End. 23hrs after we had set off from John O’Groats, and lined up on the finish-line for the photo shot. By 10:00hrs, we were having our photo taken at the signpost, big smiles all-round. Tick that one off the Bucket List. What’s next?
A big thank-you to Phil and Steph for being mad enough to join me on this fool-hardy venture. It cost more to do, than we raised, but it was all worth it. Huge thanks to Phil’s mum Vera, for putting us up for the Saturday night before we headed for home. Very much appreciated. I can recommend the Lochinvar Hotel, St John’s Town of Dalry as a cheap and very adequate overnight stop. And top marks to the Seaview Hotel, John O’Groats who provided very good quality accommodation, well geared up for the weary traveller.
Oh, and sorry Steph. Send me the bill ;-)