4 Bridges, several end2enders, top road kill action and a bloke called Martin from Tain. Day 16 was another hard pushed day. The end was now almost around the corner never mind smelling it we could almost touch it. This was the penultimate day and the team was loving it although keen to box this one away. Brora would form another 59 mile bite into the final sprint...
The Officer’s Mess floor looked like a scene from a plane crash, bodies lay strewn about. Ali and Tony (who share the double mattress) appeared comfortable. They had not adopted the spoon position although who knows what had happening in the night. Two weeks is a long time for any man! The team was very lethargic, energy levels low and even Jonathan was not at his ‘normal’ pain in the arse self. It was apparent that the project was starting to tire the team, this is not a quickie. The team thought of home. Jonathan completed the blog upload and the vehicle was packed.
Jonathan decided that we needed a picture of all our equipment, spares and tools etc. This would from an effective picture for our presentations that would follow this epic adventure. The team didn’t dig his plan but complied as the path of least resistance. The pictures were good. With the vehicle repacked and new locations entered the team pushed off. Goodbye to Douggie and staff at Inverness TA Centre – another top bunch. [Thanks fellas]. Energy levels remained low, the time was 0950 hrs and 1 mile in the team pulled into a garage for bananas, chocolate and flapjacks. A lovely lady stopped and gave us £10 for the charities and took our photograph. 58 miles remained. It is a defining moment of the day when you mentally calculate the journey entirety. Characters are fortified or broken at this point; and is usually the moment 'Jonny spin' is deployed. Bridge one (Kessock) formed our extraction route from Inverness to Black Isle. The North Sea looked cold. We considered our desire to fit in a tour swim before we finished – the plan was soon forgotten. We pressed on.
The bike was silent, only the whir of the gears and tyres on the road could be heard. The team was tired and there was nothing to say. Nevertheless our speed was good. Suddenly Jonathan burst into announcement, ‘Gentlemen, we have now covered 10 miles since departure.’ Morale was lifted – the boys and Sheila were shifting with our newly found breakfast energy levels raised. Come on!
The entrants for the road kill competition were excellent. The amusing thing about road kills is that regardless of the speed you are travelling you will always smell it first! Two deer were recorded – they were ‘proper rancid’ even Jonathan, who likes handling dead stuff, was not drawn to handle the entrants. The town of Tain was our lunch target, sitting at 29 miles. Bridge two (Cromarty) was crossed at speed with Doctor Tony at the helm. He now has the downhill braking technique sorted utilising Mr rear disk brake and ‘pulsing’ both rear and front rim callipers. It is like watching a master at work – Ali commented, ‘The doctor is clearly at work in his clinic’ as we all tucked in behind the busy and rather involved ‘Doctor;’ Tony did a superb job – top effort ‘TJ’
Royal Tain was entered at 1350 hrs. What a beautiful town, several heads were turned as the long machine entered. We never fail to have a chuckle to ourselves when ladies say ‘I have never seen one that long!’ Hmm thank you madam...but how about this bike! We pulled in and spoke to Martin. Jonathan asked him, ‘mate do you know any good places to have a bite to eat?’ we then looked up and saw that we had pulled outside his cafe, amusingly he recommended several other places. Martin, who clearly is a local character, was offered a ‘seater’ on Sheila. We carried him down the road, he offered us to come back to his cafe for all the free tea and coffee we could drink. Lunch of local meat pie and chips was delicious. Everywhere we ask for discount people always oblige. The pub gave us a generous £10 to the charities [Thank you]. 23 miles lay ahead...
Starting again after lunch is always very difficult. Your legs are filled with lactic acid and your stomach is desperately attempting to digest the largest meal you have ever seen. The worst thing one could ever do is sit yourself on a bike and start pedalling. We now have got into a routine of stopping every 10 miles. The team gets their heads down until the counter clicks to 10. The boys continually will ask ‘how much further’ privately they know that Jonathan will push extra mileage out of them if he is able. We stopped at 12.5 miles – Jonny had squeezed a cheeky 2.5 miles out of the team. Momentum and pace is everything. Bridge 3 crossing the Dornoch Firth we met Erwin from the Netherlands. He was cycling around Scotland for a week before returning to work as a Chartered Engineer. Top fella, we stopped for mutual bike pictures. He was heading to Edinburgh A9 mate keep on going. [Thanks Erwin – keep on cycling chum]. Finally, bridge four crossing Loch Fleet into Golspie.
That afternoon we past several end2enders who were clearly just starting out. We felt smug and almost veteran like, we had nearly done it yet they were just at the start of a long journey. With leery cheers and fists punched into the air we encouraged our fellow end2enders! The final push into Brora was, as they say, ‘sweet’ although it took 20 minutes to find our accommodation in the Army Cadet Force hut. Fabulous facilities, floor, walls and white porcelain for our sore bums. The team was tired, Ray, Ali and Tony went down to the local sandy beach; it was incredible scenery. Ray got artistic with two dead lobsters. Jonathan and Mark were left sleeping in their sleeping bags. Ali and Tony joked about leaving Ray at the beach although admittedly they wouldn’t have the balls to mess with ‘The Rayster!’
The blog was written; Ali, Tony and Ray recced the local establishments. The boys departed into town for evening scoff where we went to the local Italian Restaurant ‘Il Padrino’. What a fabulous meal we had washed down with the local Base bitter. The meal was one to remember, we all reminisced about the last 2 weeks, the tales, the experience and the impending conclusion to this life experience. There was an air of anticipation. Everyone we had spoken to mentioned the climbs and mad descents on the next day. We met mike (the chef), young Scott and Renato (who served us) they gave us 10% off the bill for charity [Thank you fellas]. End2enders you must stop at this restaurant, great atmosphere and great food. We departed and went for a pint at the Sutherland Hotel. There we met Sandra, her husband Ken, Hamish and Alan. Hamish used the pool table to describe the Mendip Hills compared to what we would face tomorrow! They relished describing the climb and mad descents that we would ‘enjoy’ tomorrow. Hamish gave us his email address so that we could email our experience. Sandra once again collected even more money for us. She was an absolute star, collecting inn total £56 for charity – what nice people, such generosity [ Thank you Sandra for your efforts it was very much appreciated]. With a beer sitting heavy and tales to scare the arse off anyone we returned to our cadet hut. The blog was concluded and the alarm set for 5 am... Tomorrow we would get this cracked...62 miles of hurt but it was time to draw this show to a close. John O’Groats here we come...COME ON BRING IT ON!