Thursday, 5 June 2008

Day 3 - Exeter to Bristol 83 Miles - 2 Blow Outs!

Day 3 – Exeter to Bristol 83 Miles – The Mendip Hills!

There is no doubt that big Daddy G was watching over us. With 2 front tyre blow outs at speed and complete brake failure on the rear disc break, today was a day that we will never forget. One can see why Land’s end to John O’Groats is a physical, mental and emotional challenge and not for the faint hearted. Today we enjoyed the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Special mention goes to our driver Alistair whose Herculean arms held the full weight of the bike during two blow outs. His cool headedness kept the team on the bike and safe. Lady luck had now played her 3 cards; there would be no more chances! Exhausted and emotionally drained the bike was nursed to Bristol, arriving at Bristol University Officer Training Corps at 2200 hrs. We had been cycling for 13 hours. As we pulled in a tray of cool beer waited at the front gate presented by Company Sergeant Major (CSM) John Ledgister RIFLES and Senior Junior Officer (SUO) Jamie Powell. What style – things haven’t changed. We were alive and now we had beer. Life is fantastic; thank you Big G!

We awoke in Exeter Regional Training Centre and with the lessons learnt from yesterday we were up and out by 0700 hrs. Accommodation cleaned and bike prepped we cycled off from Wyburn Barracks Guard Room at 0730 hrs. The early morning weather was gorgeous, sunny and bright it was going to be a beautiful day. Today was going to be one of the longest days 83 miles to Bristol, it was going to hurt and we knew it. We made good progress but we were all running on empty as we missed dinner last night and we had no breakfast. Not advisable. We had debated the route last night. Do we use the more direct but bendy and winding roads of the A38 or go the longer but faster route of the A30 – A303 – A37. The longer route won the contest. It turned out to be the right call.

By 0910 hrs we pulled into to Honiton for breakfast. The breakfast was unbelievable pure filthy food but my goodness it was enjoyed. 4 meals were inhaled…keeping to strict time we limited ourselves to 40 mins to keep the pressure on. With lunch collected we pressed on next target Ilminster..come on bring it on. The roads were quite ‘cheeky’ with some naughty hills. The sweat poured off us as we dug into some very very long inclines. They felt they would never end… the boys started to get fed up with Jonathan’s words of encouragement of ‘keep going fellas – dig in- not far to go now!’ Breaks were short but needed, bike was happy and moral high, we pressed on.

1215 hrs bike was not feeling well as we realised we had a split inner tube at the valve. Ray is unbelievable; he seems to have this second sense when we need assistance and as we pull in he will appear moments later. It seems unthinkable that we considered not having a support team, we couldn’t have done it.

As we joined the A303 we were making superb speed with an average of 20 mph on the flat. Illchester formed the start of the Mendip Hills. This was to become the toughest test of them all. A37 and heading to Shepton Mallet we had to walk up several hills, they were monsters.

The only good thing about the hill is that pain is rewarded with PLEASURE. 1440 hrs the bike picked up speed and then reaching over 30 mph the distinctive sound similar to a very loud champagne cork being popped was heard. The front tyre exploded, the bike bucked to the right and left, Ali held strong. An emergency stop brought us to an abrupt halt. Ali was congratulated – top effort. Ray and Tony shot forward to Shepton Mallet to source more bike spares. This is fast becoming the most expensive bike journey in history. Ali enjoyed the afternoon sun as the 3 Cunningham brothers waited for the support team return. The bike was fixed – Ruth and John of JD Cycles were phoned to extract more technical advice. We pressed on.

1530 hrs second blow out on another major descent. The Big G must have been watching over his lads. This blow out was more violent than before but once again the Ali held strong. We all unbelievably remained on the bike – we were all safe but our luck had run out. The Rayster reappeared and once again the bike was rebuilt. Tony has is the most incredible bike mechanic. There is nothing he cant do with his fancy fold up bike tools. He is bikemaster.

1630 hrs we pressed on. Suddenly Ali shouts – ‘fellas I have no brakes!’ Amusing you may think but we were now travelling at 30 mph down another hill…we pulled in before blow out 3 was upon us. Morale had now hit absolute rock bottom, we were 16 miles from Bristol as the Mendip Hills had not finished with us. Banter was minimal, we all thought what the hell are we doing? Even Tony expressed his concern, ‘Fellas, maybe this bike is not capable of this distance and conditions’ – he could be right. No one spoke but we all looked at each other. Morale couldn’t be any lower. We were all genuinely shaken by the 2 blow outs and we seriously wondered if we could finish this task. The night was closing in. We replaced the rear disc breaks and pressed on but we had now covered the rear disc in white spirit! Now it didn’t work at all, it became apparent we could only go down hill by walking the bike down. This would take hours but some fast thinking we decided to remove the panniers and 2 members of the team took it in turn to cycle the bike with less weight. It was a top move and the plan worked.

On this trip we have come across so many genuinely nice people on such person was Mary who pulled up in her car and asked if we were all ok? She then offered us accommodation for the whole team. What a lovely lady…and restored faith in people.

Bristol was a fantastic sight as we walked our bike up Park Street and then into the BUOTC. CSM John Ledgister RIFLES and SUO Jamie Powell who met us on the main gate with a tray of beers for us all. What style, even Ray was handed a beer! What a welcome – style and panache! We were lead into the drill hall for pizza and more beer in the Warrant Officers and Sgt Mess with QMSI Dignam and the Adjutant Tim Godden. However the night was not over as Jonathan, Tony and Ali decide to go out. Park Street provided the setting for several drinks before heading back. A group of students we ere swimming in the fountain…0330 hrs we got our heads down on the floor of the Gunner’s Arms. What a day - 82 Miles. The bike must be sorted tomorrow before we press on.


Lord Boiseau said...

Brilliant effort lads, real strong stuff! But why the lies? Jon out 'til 3.30am!!!

Ben Ironman said...

Well done lads so far, bike sounds like a nightmare, look at it this way the south west is by far the hardest part, so hopefully the bike will not be under so much strain.
Gods country next, say hello to chepstow as you go pass.
A top tip lads if its not happing yet it will happen chaffing, get some Aqueous cream down there, before bed and before you ride its very soothing.
Keep your heads up always, and let nothing beat your sprits.
Regards Ben ( rode out with you in Lands End )

Lord Boiseau said...

To Jonathan
The wheels of the quadricycle go round and round, round and round, round and round,the wheels of the quadricycle go round and round ALL THE WAY TO SCOTLAND!!!
Love from eugene xxxxxxxxx

Lord Boiseau said...

Poor you the wheel blowing out!!! I'm giving you a joke I hope it's funny. What do you call a soldier cycling to Scotland? Maydjer Bumsore!! Love from Pearl xxxxxxx
good luck

Team_end2end08 said...

Hi Babe your doing brilliant, can't wait to see you tomorrow will you be back for the party, keep pedling love you lots Joxxxxx