>The Final Countdown

>Well it is now rapidly heading for the start of my LEJoG.

With the bank holiday coming up this weekend, and possibly no riding on Friday either, I am down to 5 riding days before I start. Am I nervous? What do you think?

Are all the preparations completed? Not likely. I still have not tried to see if I can get all my kit in my bag(s) yet. In fact I am not sure I have all the kit I need. I did go out yesterday and buy what may prove to be an essential item- the tub of sudocrem. After posting this entry, I am going to start to round up the items I am taking to try to fit them in my bags.

I did try cycling with a full saddle bag and a full handlebar bag on Friday night and Monday morning to/ from Jo’s house from Grantham Railway Station. I have to say I surprised myself and Jo by getting to her house in less than an hour from the station. I thought it wasn’t bad as that time includes, getting the bike off the train, fitting the bags to the bike and carrying the bike over the platforms and bridge to the road. It is some 17.3 miles so I was well pleased with that, especially as I usually average about 13mph. It only took me 64 minutes to do the return journey on Monday morning, and that was into a head wind.

As part of my intensive build up to the start of my ride, I am going to spend the bank holiday weekend with Jo, travelling to Cardiff for a birthday party (hello Cathy!), then the next day travelling from Cardiff onto Plymouth to see Jo’s beloved Barnsley FC hopefully avoid defeat and thereby retain their place in the Championship. This is essential as I want to visit Barnsley next season when Newcastle are in the Championship. [Memo to Alan Shearer – its about now we need to pick up some points if we are to avoid relegation]. I do hope that drinking lots of alcohol two days running is appropriate training for my ride. Alcohol, travelling and bank holiday weekends go together – as do seaside towns.

Finally, must just say a quick hello to Greg and the rest of the Nash family and remind them that its their turn to visit us on a Saturday night- but we don’t serve sausage, egg and chips! Greg is the person that invited me and Tom to watch Orient play one game eight or so years ago and we’re still suffering even now. Mind you of late, its been a bit less painful as they have started to win the odd game.

>Thank You

>Just a short post to give a mention to a few of the people who have helped me to get to this stage- that is the stage of panic and dread that its nearly the starting day and I am not prepared enough.

Firstly, I must give thanks to my son Tom, who would dearly love to be riding with me, but sadly for him he has got his GCSE exams at exactly the time I am doing the ride. Tom is the reason I got into cycling. My father got Tom cycling at the age of about 7, and being the over protective parent that I am, I wouldn’t let Tom ride his bike alone on the roads in London, so I got a bike to accompany him. Over the years, Tom has accompanied me on many rides, including several London- Southend rides, several Audax events and general weekend rides around the Essex lanes. Last summer Tom & my father did the C2C ride from Whitehaven to Hartlepool. Tom has never let me hear the end of that and the fact he did it and I didn’t. That is probably part of my motivation to do LEJoG.

Next, I must give a mention to my father who has encouraged me to cycle and is a seemingly never ending source of bikes and bike kit. He is even going to travel over from Durham to Wales and ride with me up to the Carlisle or the Scottish borders, and even better has persuaded my mother to drive that part of the route carrying our luggage. Thanks to both of you.

Next, I must say thanks to Les Harrison, a fellow north east cyclist and a friend of my father. Les did LEJoG last summer and his advice has been very helpful, from what luggage to take, what route to follow and how to approach the hills etc.

Last but not least, I must give a big thank you to Jo, my partner for not letting me weasel my way out of doing the ride. She has also decided to give up her time to join me as luggage carrier/ hotel booker etc for the 2nd week of the ride. She has put up with my arranging weekends around cycling- ie getting home late on a Friday/ leaving early on a Monday so I can do extra cycling. She’s even put up with my falling asleep on the sofa or in the cinema as I’m too tired after too much cycling. She’s a star.

Finally, I got round to putting all the luggage etc on my bike today. I’ve got the GPS, computer, all set up on bike now. Just got to try packing my kit into the luggage bags now

>You’ll Never Walk Alone

>I have to start today’s post by saying that despite it being 20 years ago, the shock and horror at what happened at Hillsborough is still as real as on the day.

As a genuine football fan, it is something that is too close to home. Indeed in 1987, I was at the FA Cup Semi Final at Hillsborough with a pal who is a Leeds fan. We entered the ground that day via the Leppings Lane turnstiles. To then hear two years later that 96 people died at that same end is horrific. It was made all the worse by the police deliberately lying at the time- ie the fans forced the gate open etc- erm no Chief Superintendent Duckinfield, you ordered the gate to be opened, but forgot to direct the fans away from the pen through the tunnel!

I know it is not a cycling post, but it is something that means a lot to this football fan, so please indulge me.

>Route Sorted

>At last, I think I have sorted out my route- well I’ve done a first draft of the route at any rate.

It goes something like this…

It Winds from Chicago to LA,
More than 2000 miles all the way,
Get Your kicks on Route 66,
Now you go through St Louis,
Joplin, Missouri,
And Oaklahoma City is mighty pretty,
You see Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona,
Don’t forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino,
Won’t you get hip on this timely trip,
When you make that California trip,
Get your kicks on Route 66

Ok, that’s not quite the route I have planned to take – been there and done that before- but it did take me 9 years to complete that trip. This trip is hopefully going to take me less time to complete.

I’m heading from Lands End to Liskeard via Redruth and St Austell, then on via Tavistock, Dartmoor, Exeter, Wellington, Taunton and on towards Avonmouth, Aust, Monmouth, Hereford, Knighton, Shrewsbury and Whitchurch.

[Whitchurch, Warrington, Chorley, Preston and onto Lancaster (not the service station) and a night at my cousin’s house-[Thanks Andy & Jan]. Thereafter, its Carnforth, but only a brief encounter with the place. Then Kendal, up over Shap, into Penrith, Carlisle and over the border to Longtown.

Next its Gretna, Dumfries and up the A76 to Mauchline. Then its navigate Glasgow, avoiding a kiss hopefully and heading up along the bonny banks of Loch Lomond to Crianlarich then to Fort William, Invergarry along Loch Ness (who will look a bigger mess- Nessie or me?), then its onto Bonar Bridge, Lairg and onto Dounreay (home of the Ready Brek advert?) finally, its along to Thurso and into John o Groats and a well deserved pint. At least this route avoids going via the Isle of Arran.

I’m tired just typing out the route.

I’m trying to get in as many miles as I can, but not getting in as many as I’d like. I’ve not done more than about 51 in a day this year, but have done lots of back to back 40-50 mile rides albeit half before work and half after work.

I’m not in the final stages of sorting out my kit and loading up the bike to see what it rides like with all my kit on it. I also need to get used to riding a geared bike again, having ridden over 1900 miles fixed so far this year. Its a different experience riding fixed and it takes some getting used to gears again.

Sadly, the only cycling I managed over Easter was 2 sessions in the gym on the exercise bike there – a total of 90 minutes. Its not enough, but there is a limit to how much cr*p TV you can watch in the gym without going stir crazy.

Right- that’s enough for now as I need to be up early in the morning to get some miles in before work. This work is geting well in the way of my preparations for this ride!

>Downbound Train

>Down to only 33 days left to go. The time is rapidly passing by. I set up this blog 3 months ago, and now there is only 1 month until I am due to start.

I have now got my bike serviced and ready to ride. I just need to sort out my kit into the bags and ensure it all fits. I also have to sort out the bike computer. At least, now I am in final stages of bike preparation. I suppose I should actually try putting some miles in on this bike. i have been riding my fixed bike all winter apart from during the snow.

The good news is that this last week, I have actually got some miles in. I have done 50 or more miles each day from Mon- Thurs by extending my commute in the morning and evening. I also did 25 miles into work on Friday. I didn’t ride home Friday as I went up to Grantham on the train to be with Jo.

I managed a total of 228 miles Mon – Fri this last week – my highest weekly total ever I think.

I won’t ride in on Monday as I will be travelling down from Grantham on the train. Then on Tuesday I won’t get a long commute home as I will be heading off to the Orient. No, not the Far East, the Orient I’m going to is at Brisbane Road, London E10. They are playing Leeds. That is the team that won the league in 1973/74 not playing fairly according to (Sir) Brian Clough [ or was it Michael Sheen?] and he was right. Was it only 2001 when they were in the semi finals of the Champions League, and now in the 3rd tier of English football.

Talking of football, my first love seem to lurch from one headline grabbing story to another. After forcing the resignation of the most popular man on Tyneside by preferring the actions of that poisonous little dwarf Denis Wise, Mackem agent Ashl*y appoints a man whose contribution to football is the most swear words in a sentence and having a dodgy ticker. Who then promptly has another heart attack. Ashl*y then leaves us with no manager until the last 6 weeks of the season before appointing a man with no managerial experience at all to try to turn round a rapidly sinking ship. Guess what- we lost again. Anyone joining me to see the Toon at MK Dons in August?

I do have to confess, that I chose to go to Barnsley on Saturday to see their relegation clash with the Scabs of Nottingham Forest. A late phone call on Saturday lunchtime meant a late call up to the prawn sandwich brigade. So after rapidly touting our tickets we made our way into the corporate boxes where a certain Tr*lf*rd Mills popped over to ask why I wasn’t at SJP and to remind me that he refereed KK’s first game as a player at SJP. That was the game when
“Right on the hour,
You should have heard the din
When Wor Kev had a shot and the crowd sucked it in….”

Anyway, back to cycling… I have to say I wish my route to JoG was as downhill as the football teams I watch. I think I have now worked out a route to get me passed Glasgow or Edinburgh without needing to take a ferry. I will this week try to plot the route on the computer for this section. Once that is done, the rest of the route is easy to plan- it is as there are not many roads to choose from. I intend to have finished route planning by this time next week. I also hope to finalise some of the other arrangements, for example I am hopeful that I may have company for part of the first week as my father is planning to join me on route for a few days riding. Then for the 2nd week, Jo is coming up to Scotland to spend some time with me and to see some of Scotland, so I hopefully will not be alone for the whole fortnight. I still however have to get up those hills….