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Pedal Power by Nick Veasey
  • Writer's pictureAnnette Culshaw

Lejog: We'll take the high road...

Updated: Jan 6, 2020

September 29th 2018

Today started off so badly. I had been awake until after 2.00am and woke up at 5.00am, fretting most of the night about today's journey. We are getting progressively tired now and we knew that wa had a massive day ahead of us today. We were to climb the iconic Drumochter Pass., the highest point in the whole trip at 1,516 ft above sea level. It was also to be a long, long day cycling as the availabilty of accommodaton up here is poor and we had to reach the first available guest house in Aviemore.

Imagine how we felt when we put the TV on this morning and saw the weather forecast....

rain for most of the day... winds gusting to 50mph....Heavy weather warnings...

We spent the breakfast period deciding if we should continue or if we should hole up for the day. However, the weather forecast for the next week is grim at best and much colder at worst. If we abandoned today we might as well give up on reaching John'O Groats at all.

Bob was keen to continue (bless!!!) .. I was in a state of abject indecision. Shirley and John were the voice of reason... "give it a try and if it is too awful we will come and pick you up"

So, tired and scared we ventured out. It was a northerly wind with massive gusts coming from all directions because of the effects of the hills. We were blown all over the place, gripping our handlebars so tightly that every shoulder and back muscle ached. We hit the climb up the Drumochter Pass feeling miserable and frightened. Cyclsts have to use a cycle path which runs alongside the A9. It was rough and undulating. The wind was fierce, the rain turned into hailstones and was freezing.

We reached the summit, against all odds and started the descent when, a little miracle happened. The rain stopped, the wind changed direction and was behind us.. the first time in many days. We could not speed down the main descent as the path was loose gravel but the lower down we got the easier it became. The sun came out!! It was still bitterly cold, but dry.

We cycled the next 15-20 miles with this very strong wind on our tail. We needed no power at all from our bike batteries and were screaming along at 20 miles an hour. It was totally magic. It was a bit like childbirth... you forget the pain and enjoy the baby so very quickly!

We cycled through the uncompromising, bleak and dark hills of the Cairngorms, in the Highlands of Scotland, in a state of total unreality. It was surreal. Here we were, two oldies from Kent whizzing through this totally isolated landscape and enjoying every minute of it. All the day was spent on minor roads and cycle ways. The cycle ways here in Scotland are the best ever. They are often as wide as single track roads, traffic free, smooth tarmac surfaces and well signposted. The motorcycle calming barriers were wide enough to cycle through without stopping. So very different from the potholed and shingle surfaced miseries and barrier ridden trails that we met in England. We went through woods where the leaves are turning into their brilliant autumn colours, past salmon rivers and waterfalls, and up hills and down dales. It was exhilarating.

YES.. this is a cycleway, not a road!! Truly brilliant

The main lesson from today is to not give into your fears. If we had we would not have started out at all this morning. We just had to tough it out for the first couple of hours. We have only three more days to go now before we reach John O'Groats and the weather forecast is grim in the extreme, but we will have to go for it whatever. We would hate to fail at this last leg. Undoubtedly will have to tough it out even more over the next three days.

Having Shrley and John here has been the biggest boost. Shirley is sorting out our accomodation each night wich saves us a good couple of hours a day and a whole bucketload of stress, and John is our unpaid porter. Between them they have eased our daily workload immeasurably. They are so positve and encouraging and I truly believe that because we are so tired now we may well have given up without them. They also give us a boost, seemingly just when we need it, by arriving alongside us in the car and stopping just ahead of us to say how well we are doing - that's what you call support - there just when you need it! Thank you Shirley and John!

We are staying at a sweet little guest house in Aviemore tonight. We all went out to dinner and Bob and I collapsed to our room at about 7.30pm. Sad or what!!!

But what a great day!!

The highest point on the course, 1,516ft

Day’s Mileage: 57.62m Total mileage to date: 836.31m

Day’s climbing: 2.093ft Total climbing to date 34,580ft

Only3 more days to go...

lots of love

Annette & Bob


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