Land's End to John O'Groats 2012
Leicester to Leeds - Tuesday, 31st July
It was raining, proper rain that was hammering against the window. Up again at 6.15 am, it took me a while to get going despite having gone to bed at a reasonable time. There was a long busy day ahead so the team was determined to get underway as soon as possible with breakfast at 7.00 am and departure at 7.30 am.
I got ready and headed down to reception where everyone was waiting for the staff to open up. There was some degree of anxiety to get started which wasn't helped by the discovery that none of us had breakfast booked. Rob sorted it out but after breakfast, I realised that everyone else had already loaded their bags on the bus so I spent a frantic few minutes clambering up and down stairs, back and forth along the longest corridor ever to get my stuff. Heavy fire doors represented a significant challenge to the passage of an awkward shaped bike.
When everything was sorted I joined the others outside sheltering from the rain under a canopy by the car park. Simon and Nick were our guest riders for the day's ride to Leeds and everyone was waiting for Dave who was attaching the BTRS banners to the top of the trailer. Instead of hurrying, I could have had another half hour in bed as it was 8.12 am when the Garmin's start button was eventually pressed. Not that this was a bad thing because if everyone was thinking the same as me, we were all delaying getting wet.
We followed Alex around Leicester's city centre one way system, Gav managed to fall off in the slippery conditions on a roundabout. We took the A607 out of town alongside rush hour traffic. The road morphed into the A46 and we were back on Fosse Way in pouring rain. The two support vehicles provided front and rear protection on the dual carriageway once more as we piled on forwards with nothing more to see than puddles, spray and mist. The forecast had promised assistance from a 40 mph following wind, however the weather was far from being helpful.
I was wet through and losing feeling in my fingers. I stood it as long as I could and at fifteen miles gestured to the support vehicle behind to follow me into a lay-by. I swopped to full waterproof gloves and put on my under helmet scull cap. With ears and fingers covered, I instantly felt better. Looking around, I judged that everyone was appreciating the respite too.
We were heading for Retford where a media stop had been arranged, so we turned off the A46 at Bingham, joining the A6907 over the River Tent. We passed through Lowdham, at which point thoughts turned to food, so Alex was sent off ahead to find a cafe. Clearly there was not a lot around and it was a few miles later that we stopped at a burger van just off the Oxton Bypass, as Haydn said "it's grim up north". I had a 'very well done burnt' bacon sandwich washed down with sweet tea, the rain had more or less stopped. The snack van staff had their pictures taken with the torches and they kindly gave us some chocolate biscuits. My spirits were restored.
We joined the A614 now travelling north past Thoresby Park at Ollerton and on to meet the A1 at Great Whin Covert. We crossed over onto the B6426 into Retford. The route had been largely flat which was very welcome, now we briefly turned into the wind which was indeed fairly strong. At Retford, we stopped at one of Rob's work's sites and were greeted by a huge spread of food and drink. The toilet was in a showhome next door and Haydn made several trips to test the plumbing. We posed for photographs and Rob changed into his Olympic Torch Relay gear for some special shots for his work. Dawn and her colleague made us very welcome and it was very kind of them to provide us with so much sustenance.
We headed on up the A638 'Great North Road' through Barnby Moor and Bawtry, alongside the east coast main line into Doncaster. We navigated around the city centre and stopped to regroup in a bus lay-by just before the A1.
photograph - north of Doncaster
It was a very pleasant ride along the A638 vaguely north west to South Elmsall before heading cross country to Featherstone. We rolled through the town then crossed the M62 on Cutsyke Road before navigating our way to Castleford where Rob had arranged a stop at another of his work's sites on Leeds Barnsdale Road.
We were greeted by friends and family who'd been waiting at the site, a brilliant reception and I really felt like we were coming home. The food and drink was once again impressive and it was great to see Gav's family and the Meek clan. Haydn made several tests of the plumbing again. We posed for photographs outside, Rob had a shot taken being presented with a giant cheque for £500, funny thing was it was blank on both sides - the wonder of photoshop!
The final push into Leeds was done on pure adrenaline. I don't remember much about the journey through Methley and Rothwell but as we crossed the M62 at Stourton, the enormity of the achievement struck me. I couldn't believe that we were actually in Leeds, back on home territory, passing familiar places and nearing the end of the fourth 100+ mile day. First we wanted to go and see Ian Meek at St Gemma's hospice in Moortown. We said good-bye to Simon and Nick who were heading for the railway station then made our way up Scott Hall Road.
I discovered on the way through Leeds that I couldn't unclip my left foot from the pedal. It was slightly embarrassing at St. Gemma's when it seemed I was permanently attached to the bike. Fortunately, Alan came up with the obvious (to everyone else except me) answer of taking my shoe off. Alex then managed to yank the shoe out of the pedal to discover that I'd lost a cleat bolt.
Ian was not at all well. He perked up slightly when the four of us were by his bedside and he joined in with the banter. I was touched when he acknowledged me by name. I apologised for my poor aroma and Ian responded that it was probably him, which brought a raucous round of laughter. After a while, the emotion of the moment became too much for me and I made my apologies and left the room. Nanna Jean very kindly found me down the corridor and we had a lovely chat in a private room. It helped a lot.
Haydn kindly gave me spares and tools to repair my shoe. It was getting late, we were tired and it seemed a better plan to load up the bikes and drive to the Travelodge. The rooms were allocated and I luxuriated under a nice hot shower whilst the others waited their turn for physio. At 10.00 pm I went over the road to Bibi's italian restaurant and ate lasagne.
I later discovered that I'd left my toothbrush and Garmin charger in Leicester.
To Stockton on Tees