Tuesday, 24 August 2010
Saturday, 14 August 2010
Friday, 13 August 2010
With Esther winning the X Factor competition; Well done Mel on guessing it was a peacock, her choice for the evening efforts was a goat (given the amount of Welsh Goats cheese that was being eaten). Freddie rather sheepishly accepted the win, with others detecting some slight nepotism from Judge Esther. With us enjoying a lovely meal and wine we retired for some much needed rest.
Today marked a tricky ride from Aberdyfi to Rhyader, a relatively small ride of 50 miles but along a road with some serious climbs as we journeyed over the Cambrian Mountains. Starting off at sea level we left in the knowledge that we had four main climbs before lunch (according to Geoff anyhow). At the top of every hill gasping for oxygen someone would always be quick to ask Geoff if that was one of the dreaded four hills, sadly the answers were no. As soon we got through Machynlleth we knew that the hills were imminent with the road sign exclaiming 19 miles to our lunch stop, Llanidloes along a narrow mountain road.
Reaching the peak at 510m after the four mile incline the views were truly breathtaking, and everyone was even more grateful with Geoff announcing that the prior hill was actually 2 of the hills done. With no coffee shops at the top we carried with at least the knowledge that we must have some downhill. Everyone, well apart from Caroline (who has a fear of going down hills) was extremely glad of the long downhill with everyone managing to gather some serious speeds. JG sped along at particularly impressive 49mph on one downhill stretch and Caroline even managed to measure in a personal best.
Moving on from lunch we were joined by Ed who was determined that he wanted to cycle up a mountain. Five minutes in and he was eating his words as the road continued up some extremely steep hills.
Finally arriving at our hotel in Rhyader all of us our completely exhausted and despite our increase in fitness the cumulative fatigue is definitely taking its toll.
Photos of the fatigue setting in:
Thursday, 12 August 2010
I’m sorry for leaving yesterday’s post rather unfinished but my phone was on the brink of dying and I wasn’t prepared to risk losing what I had already written.
Carrying on from the unfinished bridge we admired the views as we descended into the small seaside town of Criccieth. The last two miles are always the hardest as you know how close you are, but everyone usually splits up and gets lost as we hunt for the hotel, yesterday was no exception. A warm welcome party of Auntie Lisa and Auntie Jeffrey greeted us with a proudly waived Welsh Flag (thank you to Southerdown Golf Club for lending it!) and some much needed beverages.
With a quick shower we met downstairs for some more drinks and some tasty food. With it being Harry’s last night Judge Hole once against held a kangaroo court session to punish the misdemeanours of the last few days. Notable charges included;
Esther Hitchcock - Obtaining more shoes through Josh’s visit to Dublin and getting Auntie Lisa to bring extra clothes.
Geoff Graham – Road Rage.
Julian Hitchcock – Some particularly tragic cycling outfits.
X Factor also got under way with Rachel having the honour on deciding upon the topic. Have a look at the video below to try and ascertain what you think the finalists of Geoff, Jess, Esther and Auntie Lisa are impersonating.
Also, I have been informed that the last video I posted didn’t actually show Pauls cow impression; it was a breakdown in communication and understanding between the filming crew and editing staff! Should be below:
After some drinks to celebrate another type of result and some banter with the newcomers we hit the sack for some much needed sleep.
Waking up to a Welsh fry up we got on our way with Superman to Criccieth castle. Cycling on to Portmaddog the heavens opened and even Superman’s powers were ineffective as the rain drenched us all. Feeling the need to thaw out we stopped off at Harlech for a cake break. While some went to explore the castle, others took the chance to challenge themselves against a 40% gradient hill! The incline was so steep that you had to get off and walk down part the hill as applying the brakes was a futile attempt at slowing down! With a car interrupting JG’s first attempt up the perilous incline it was his bike that came off worse at the second try as the chain snapped under the pressure.
With a quick pit stop we had to say goodbye to Superman and Auntie Lisa as their help was needed elsewhere. They helped spurred us on through the Welsh rain and would be welcomed back to the tour anytime.
Getting back on the wet road to Aberdyfi we had our worst accident so far with Jess hitting a curb and bouncing along the road. Thankfully all is well after some first aid attention by on call Dr. Graham and a scone break shortly afterwards. Some onlookers have argued that Freddie was out to avenge his earlier scuffle with Jess, but when questioned by Sky Sports Freddie strongly denied any such motive.
Cycling on some memorable roads with some picturesque views; people cycling close to Geoff stated that they could sense him itching to lash out on motorists as they came close when passing him. Its hard to think that a man that loves his naps can get so agitated.
Arriving safely I’ll keep you posted with tonight’s antics.
Wednesday, 11 August 2010
With yesterday being an official tour rest day, not much in cycling terms happened. It gave us an opportunity to rest our bodies and recover from the frolic of temple bar the night before.
With Josh Rees-Hole joining us for our few days in Dublin and dinner underway the Guinness and wine yet again flowing we felt the need to over indulge (not that we have held back the rest of the trip!) To make the most of our aptly named 'recovery day'. The X factor competition again when down to the wire with Rachel emerging as the winner from the final 3 of Julian, Simon and herself.
Rachels pingu prevailed but Julians impression also deserves an honourable mention as he managed to scare one waiter to death by following her away from the table with a sqwalk and a waddle. Moving on from food and navigating our way through the cobbled streets to Temple Bar; we endured more alcohol and joined in with the Irish craic.
Waking up with a splitting headache we all sought comfort with a full fry up. Learning about how Guinness was made wasn't the best hangover cure, but we jumped back on the bandwahon with a pint at the panoramic bar at the top of the brewery. Sunny weather leant itself perfectly to an open top bus tour and everyone was searching eagle eyed for somewhere to stop for lunch.
After a few bottles of wine at lunch and some tasty french food the women went shopping with the men retiring back to the hotel. The evening was a rather sober affair with most of the group going to watch River Dance while the others took the opportunity of an early night.
Up at 6 to grab some early brekkie we got on our way to the Dublin port for our morning ferry. As the Welsh hills came into sight everyone was overwhelmed with a sense of achievement and that the fact that we are so close to finishing our trip.
As we embarked on the first road (a busy dual carriage way) we all embraced the roads which consisted of newly laid tarma - a trteat compared to the pot-holed-riddled lanes in Ireland! However, it didn't take us long to realise we were out of our depths and didn't stand much chance up against arctic lorrys hurtling by. With Geoff in charge of directions we took a quick de tour for our lunch stop at Llanfair PG, also known as Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgigerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, bit of a mouthful!
With a few pints over yet another pub lunch (we could all become food critics) we got back on our way to our destination, Criccieth. Some hairy moments on the road and Geoff managed to get himself into another shouting match with an impatient driver. Point to note - cycling shoes with cleats aren't the best for kicking cars as by the time he'd got his feet out the car was already 20m past! Following along some lovely cycle paths we were a bit dismayed by getting halfway along and finding the next section closed (everyone had flashbacks of Ireland). Deciding to take a risk we followed it anyhow only to come to a half built bridge but gambled on the wooden planks being strong enough and made a quick dart across it. Despite all the trips weight gain, they were.
Monday, 9 August 2010
Apologies for the belated blog update but Saturday marked the end of our first week/first night in Ireland and I am sure you will understand that the Guinness was calling.
Friday night saw the X Factor competition hit new heights with the judges both awarding maximum marks to Paul and Julian for their impressive impersonations of a ‘Scottish Highland Cow’. With it going to deadlock we would like to grant you, the audience, the power to decide the winner. Watch the video below and vote in the poll. Nanna, please note that multiple votes are not allowed!
The ferry from Troon (Scotland) to Larne (Northern Ireland) called for an earlier than normal breakfast. With it being the last morning in Scotland we once again took full advantage of the Scottish fry up on offer and got on our way. With the wind whipping up the waves it was fortunate that the breakfast didn’t resurface as it did for many others on the boat.
Arriving in Larne we met up with the newest member of our team, Johnnie Graham. His fresh legs and youth were drafted in to spur us on through our Irish pursuit. With Scotland behind us we assumed that hills were a thing of the past, sadly not.
The first hill was more of a bobsleigh track made even more of a struggle with the sun beaming down on us (not that we haven’t enjoyed the sun, it’s been so much nicer than the Scottish rain!). With our delayed start (the ferry didn’t get in til 12) we covered ground quickly and stopped rather conveniently at a town with a classic car exhibition. With a Sainsburys in sight we grabbed some munch, sat on the grass and basked in the sun.
Off on our way to Downpatrick we rather quickly cycled through Belfast with Caroline and Paul particularly anxious about wearing their orange cycling jackets! With Geoff in charge of directions we somehow managed to turn a supposedly straightforward cycle into a country detour, with the mileage signs only changing by 2 miles despite a 14 mile ride.
Eventually arriving at our destination- a hotel come pub- we decided to jump straight into the Irish spirit with a round of Guinness. This marked the beginning of the end.
The X Factor competition resumed over dinner and with the winner from Friday tied it was up to both Paul and Julian to decide upon the nights animal. They rather bizarrely agreed upon a ‘Frog-Pig’, with it open to interpretation it was Jess who prevailed as she wowed everyone with both aspects ; the ‘Ribbit’ and the ‘Oink’.
The night also hosted the first session of ‘Kangaroo Court’ held by Judge Hole to punish tour members who had offended in some way. Each person had to put forward a charge, which was in turn read out by the judge. The offender was given the opportunity to defend his or her position and then was punished accordingly. Sentencing varied between ‘2 fingers of Guinness’ to ‘downing’ the entire thing. Such offences included:
Geoff - Charge: Questionable Map Reading Skills- Punishment: Whole pint
Esther -Charge: Breaking Caroline’s Bike by Sitting on the Wheel- Punishment: Whole glass of wine
Caroline – Charge: Damaging the atmosphere by applying her brake pads too often- Punishment: Two fingers of wine.
Bear with me on the photos, Geoff has got them on his camera and he is in the shower.
After court was convened we moved into the bar to join in with the local craic. Is and Esther (who were spurred on by the effects of their recent court punishments) decided to take charge and pull out the Velindre donation box to pass around the locals who were equally inebriated! After many generous contributions, the ladies decided to award the contributors with a boogie in the middle of bar, with Is wining the impromptu ‘Rocker of the Night’ award with some particularly enthusiastic moves. Meanwhile, Geoff was overheard slurring on his pint that it was impossible to get drunk from Guinness, a quote proven to be completely unfounded given his hangover the following morning.
With sleep kept to a minimum, it wasn’t surprising that breakfast was pushed back from its originally scheduled time. The question on everyone’s mind was of course whether an Irish breakfast could live up to its Scottish predecessor. Thankfully potato scones and sodabread were welcome additions at the expense of porridge.
Hangovers all round the first couple of miles weren’t as easy going as we’d hoped. With Guinness and wine sweating from the pours it was a welcome break when Esther’s bike gear bracket falling off. With maintenance man Julian out of his depth and unable to fix the bike, the SOS call to the fun bus was needed so that Esther could jump on the spare bike. A coffee break in order and with Geoff feeling the effects of the Guinness it seemed only fair to walk out of the cafe while he was having a nap. After waking up to the giggling locals, he rapidly made his way outside while we found the time to laugh at him some more.
Stopping off for a carvery lunch at for what could only be described as a village hall we made the most of the generous portions, with Jess in particular eating a plate that would have fed a small island.
Setting off rather lethargically we had to cycle through Newry; a place we were told not to stop off at as the locals in Downpatrick retold the story of how 10 years ago a group of cyclists where shot down, an event they said could happen again anytime soon. With the pace picking up and passports to hand up we reached Dundalk around 7, where we retired to a takeaway pizza and the hope of watching Sherlock Holmes (it had been advertised all week). Sadly, after some channel hopping on the archaic TV we soon realised that BBC didn’t exist in the Republic of Ireland, a big blow.
With effort levels being so high throughout the week in the X Factor competition, a welcome rest was also needed to restore our delicate voices.
A good night’s sleep under our belt got ready for our last cycling day in Ireland, Dundalk to Dublin. While loading up the van, Julian and Geoff managed to let the dog out and sprinted after him; Esther received a phone call from a panting Julian saying that they had cornered the dog (a Jack Russell), only to be told that the owner said its ok, he goes on a morning wander every day! Getting on our way in the Irish rain we were boosted by the thought that tomorrow (Tuesday) a rest day and the thought of a lie in was extremely comforting.
With Geoff in charge of directions (you would have thought we would have learnt our lesson) we managed to link up with some cycle paths. In Scotland the cycle paths were short, but at least you could hop back onto the main road. The Irish cycle paths were all together a different matter. One cycle path into Dublin was particularly impressive while it lasted, crossed a bridge and then just led into a hedge!
After nearly getting killed on a number of roundabouts we found our way into Dublin. Having to navigate around some oncoming trams and buses we were relieved to finally find our hotel.
I am sitting in the bar, Guinness in hand while everyone else has gone for a relaxing shower. I shall inform you tomorrow of tonight's tales, but I am positive that Guinness, temple bar and dancing shall be involved!
P.s. We have passed the 500 mile mark! Joints and limbs are most definitely feeling it!
P.p.s. The B&B in Dundalk had a weighing scales and I have been told to inform you all not to expect any skinnier versions! Reported weight increases were as much as 8lb (Muscle weighs more than fat!)
Sunday, 8 August 2010
Saturday, 7 August 2010
Have a good night and think of us tomorrow as you enjoy your day off as we cycle to Dundalk.
Friday, 6 August 2010
An early start for breakfast was needed given that we were on a tight time schedule, something that I am sure you will appreciate is not the Hitchcock’s fortè. This may sound a bit darish and not very charitable, but we did actually do a runner from the hotel (completely justified we thought). Primarily, there was no hot water for post cycle showers (some more things as well) - a major blow for team morale. We left our details at reception, told the owner to ring us and made a swift exit.
As we left the hotel in Crinan we set along a beautiful cycle path beside the canal. As most of the cycle paths we’ve cycled on, it abruptly came to an end and it seemed to signal the end of the dry atmosphere. The weather quickly developed from a refreshing light drizzle, to a downpour only comparable to the one seen in the film Jumanji. The terrain added to our sluggish start and the flat cycle path was all but a distant memory. The roads started weaving their way through the Scottish Highlands, but thankfully, as so often on this trip, we found solace at the bottom on the hill in the shape of a cake stop.
As soon as we’d thoroughly tested all of the cakes we jumped back on the bikes with a new found vigour and were ready to battle the elements. The new lease of life didn’t last long with the first hill sapping all of our instilled energy and confidence. Battling up the 13% hills and torrential rain it was a relief to see the fun bus parked at the ferry port with the thought of dry clothes and a rest bite from the biting wind very comforting.
With the first ferry trip over we rather sea sickly landed on the Isle of Aarren, then riding the 16 miles to the other side of the island (to catch another ferry). With lunchtime very much at the front of the mind the belly began to rumble. Arriving at the ferry port with 5 minutes to spare it seemed as though lunch was foregone, but it was fate that there happened to be a Fish & Chip shop in eyesight. Chips all around as well as a few battered Mars Bars (opinions were mixed, but I was a big fan) quickly scoffed to fuel us for the afternoon.
With only 15 miles left this afternoon it was a quick adjustment to urban cycling as flocks of sheep quickly changed into white cars. Eventually (after getting lost again) we have arrived at our hotel in Troon. Right next to the Royal Troon golf club with views over the sea and we are very lucky to be treated with a tasty looking restaurant. Sadly not the usual Friday night consumption of alcohol as the ferry over to Northern Ireland calls for an early start.
Also, I thought I’d tell you that I am writing with a renewed spirit as today signals our last day in Scotland! It seems one step closer to that finish line, something that seemed out of reach on that very first climb out of John O’Groats.
Onto our entertainment correspondence to update you with the latest X Factor results:
I'm pleased to announce that Esther won ‘Donkey Night’ with a perfect rendition of ‘Eee Ow’ from Winnie the Poo! Notable mentions are Harry, Ed and Caroline who were shortlisted.
Disclaimer: We are always looking at ways to improve our blog and raise more money so please let us know if you have any ideas!
Just in case you didn't know the just giving website is:
Some photos from today (sadly not too many due to the rain)
Thursday, 5 August 2010
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
Tuesday, 3 August 2010
After scoffing our face with all the Indian food we could ever dream of and planning the route for tomorrow we retired to our Fawlty Tower hotel, wary of flees and mice.
Monday, 2 August 2010
Sunday, 1 August 2010
Saturday, 31 July 2010
I don't think today could be any further from what the ideal pre challenge day could be. Loaded with our pack lunches and luggage we set off to Cardiff airport. In full holiday spirit we embraced the bar for a quick drink and boarded what look like a toy plane. While we chatted with feelings of excitement and nervousness, someone in the group was overheard asking what the time difference in Scotland was (they shall remain anonymous, but I have no doubt that such comments will be frequent during the next two weeks!).
The brief stop in Edinburgh train station allowed for the replenishment of picnic supplies, thankfully a Marks & Spencer's was nearby and I think we bought them out of the buckets of Rocky Roads and Chocolate Cakes. Needless to say, most of it was gone by the time the train had even started moving. As the train slowly moved its way through the Scotitish Highlands the challenge ahead seemed to have dawned on us all, with Caroline in particular showing signs of hysteria as the train stopped at Aviemore, the Scottish ski resort.
Arriving at Inverness we looked for more food and found a chip shop that was very happy as our order reached 10 Burgers and Chips! Rather than stacking up on carbohydrates, the sensible attitude, we seem to have adopted a boxing approach, by eating as much fatty food as we can to stack on some weight before round one starts. We shall be sure to inform 0lance should this method of attack prove successfull!
The final stage of our trek took place on a mini bus and everyone seemed to adopt the approaxh of 'ignorance is bliss' by taking part in an impromptu team nap as the hills started to appear. Although as we got closer to John O'Groats we were informed by the driver that we could open our eyes as we weren't likely to see anything through the thick fog and sleet we were driving through!
Meanwhile the men have accomplished something great already by getting the camper van and trailer equipped with kit and Esthers wadrobe up in one piece!
I'll post some photos of our journey and first day on the bike tomorrow!