Penzance to Gweek

Eggs Benedict for brekky. Headed away from our B&B and into town to find a Vodafone Shop in the vain hope they could do something with my iPhone. Backlight doesn’t work after the soaking (inside supposedly waterproof pocket in my Endura top). Map reading is now tricky unless there’s strong sunlight (hint, hint).
Redirected to Apple dealer, who could not repair it but did back it all up to my iCloud account so if/when I replace the sick one, I’ll have all our maps and routes.
Had to wait an hour or so for the back-up, so found a nearby cafe and sat in the sun finishing sketches from Mousehole harbour.

Mousehole Harbour. After a soaking on the way to Land’s End, on the way back, the weather improved to the point where we could sit and sketch.

Left Penzance around 11, starting with a very pleasant ride along the edge of the beach with stunning views of St Michael’s Mount. Long climb out of the bay but all ‘do-able’.
Tried to find a pub for lunch around 1.00pm. Came across two, both closed weekday lunchtimes! Luckily came across a little tea shop run by old couple. “two cream teas my lover?” “there you go my sweetheart”. Mmmmmmmmm.

Helton had a couple of nasty climbs. We made the first – granny ring working overtime down here – would have cleared the second but for traffic lights against us – hill starts are tricky, so we walked the rest.

Nice B&B in Gweek 50 yards from pub. The rain never did materialise and we had a good day out on the bike. It’s now the morning of our ‘To the Lizard and back’ ride and even I, with my crappy hearing can hear the rain sweeping across the roof of our B&B.
Looks like its going to be another wet day in the saddle.

Land’s End

Land's End. Miserable weather on the ride out – it could have been fields or a huge drop to the sea on the other side of the hedge. Had a job finding the sign in the misty drizzle. Dried out a bit on the way back to Penzance.

Land’s End. Miserable weather on the ride out – it could have been fields or a huge drop to the sea on the other side of the hedge. Had a job finding the sign in the misty drizzle. Dried out a bit on the way back to Penzance.

Breakfast was a large bowl of sugar with some porridge in it. Plenty of fuel for the ride out to Land’s End and then back to our starting point. A very wet start to the day! Karon was all togged up in full wet weather gear and gradually turning into boil in the bag as I finished faffing about. The Beast had spent the night in the back garden of the Treventon Guest House in Penzance so I hauled it round to the front door before we loaded it with day bags for the ride. Doing it this way meant we could leave a pannier each at base and at least start our LEJOG with a slightly lighter bike than would be the norm.

The fine rain was sweeping inland from the sea as we followed the coast round the bay to Mousehole. From there a long steepish climb up to St. Paul. Halfway up the climb, as we struggled in our lowest gear and I thanked God that I had put on an MTB 22T granny ring, a young chap on a road bike wearing rather unconventional cycling kit puffed his way past. “This is what it’s all about!” Neither of us had the breath to answer!

After the climb, we picked up back lanes to cross the headland for Sennen Cove. The rain and mist were so bad we had no idea what was on the other side of the hedges – could have been fields, could have been a huge drop to the sea!  Got cheered by a group of folks outside the Post Office at St Buryan. Near Sennen we came out onto the A30 and decided to follow the cyclepath rather than ride the road. Bad choice. The cycle path created to avoid the A30 was abysmal. Wet sand made the going hard and it found its way onto the chain and into the disc brakes. 

Arriving at Land’s End we had to ask directions for the signpost etc. as visibility was so bad. The whole place is a little tacky these days, with a bit of a fun-fair feel to It. We found the sign post but didn’t pay for an ‘official’ photo. Visibility was very poor so we made do with a couple of snaps from the compact camera we have. Then we went into the ‘canteen’ and grabbed a rather dismal lunch then changed into dry tops.
Leaving Land’s End, we skipped the cyclepath and took the A30 back to the junction above Sennen Cove then picked up the back lanes. Stopped at St Buryan for the public loo and to buy some sugary sweets to keep in the saddle bag in case Karon’s blood sugar dropped. The weather cleared as we rode back and we stopped off at Mousehole harbour to sketch. Just out of Mousehole we met up with Mike and Liz and their little dog. They’re tandem touring England and Wales for 6 months. The dog (a small one) has a little covered basket on the back of the bike and looks very much at home.
Nice hot shower back at the B&B and the landlord took our soggy stuff to wash and dry. We ended the day wandering towards the main town and finding a curry house.
Downside of the day – my iPhone got wet and is sulking. The backlight isn’t working and it keeps jumping to voice control.
Tomorrow we head for Gweek.

Tadley to Penzance

Despite my concerns that we wouldn’t get the bike onto the train, the journey to Penzance went ok. We cycled out to Mortimer Station and when the local train arrived we went for the end carriage, assuming it wouldn’t matter so much if we blocked the door area with the bike. It did. The guard had to squeeze past to check tickets. The service down to Penzance was better, with a purpose built area that takes 4-5 bikes. Got the tandem on without any issues and went to find our seats. It was a good job we’d reserved – it was packed!

B&B, shower, change, walk, paint, beer, food, bed.

Loaded up and ready to go

Hase Pino ready to roll

The Hase Pino ready to roll

Well, we’re all packed and ready to go. There’s about 50lbs of luggage in the four panniers and saddle bag. We settled on three sets of cycling outfits plus minimal evening wear and one pair of light shoes each. Karon’s medication takes up a fair bit of space and we’ve also got a small watercolour paint set each too. I wanted to take my ‘big’ camera but there’s just not the space so we’ve just got a compact camera and my helmet cam (mounted on the bars).

A big thank you everyone who has sponsored us so far!

Tandem Club Ride

Tandem Club Ride

Took the tandem over to Earley on the western fringes of Reading yesterday to ride with the Thameswey group of the Tandem Club.

It was a nice ride – not too far at 27 miles, easy pace and only a few hills with just one being steep enough to make it really hard work. We rode north, keeping east of the river, through Wargrave and on to Henley-on-Thames where we crossed the river and headed back again down the other side.

We stopped at Binfield for a good lunch and ‘refreshments’. I experimented with putting my helmet camera on the handlebar but got a bit too much of Karon’s right arm in view, so moved it higher which worked better.

This was probably our last ride on the Pino before we try to cram it onto the train at Mortimer in a couple of weeks for the journey down to Penzance.

 

 

Tough ‘training’ rides

On consecutive weekends we rode the ‘Beast’ up in Yorkshire – out from JD Tandems in Gargrave, then the Isle of Wight Randonee. Both were hard days, though Gargrave was a lot easier. We started off with a bunch of other tandems into a very strong headwind and I made the mistake of trying to keep up. That was fine till the first little steep climb – I think my heart rate must have topped out well above where it normally does. We caught the others as they regrouped after a few miles and we took our leave, saying we’d ride the rest at our own ‘more leisurely’ pace. It was still hard into the strong head wind and we had to pedal downhill at times. Normally the Hase Pino flies downhill.

We stopped for tea and carried on. Turning for home made riding much easier for now the wind was on our backs. It wasn’t a long ride, covering about 23 miles and apart from the initial exertions, I didn’t find the rest overly strenuous, but back in Gargrave, I felt a little light headed a couple of times. Later still, back at our B&B, which was conveniently an Inn, my heart was missing beats and I still felt odd. It wore off after an hour or so but I visited the doc’s once home again and had blood tests and an ECG – all fine. We put it down to excess caffeine. I usually drink decaf so my tolerance must be low.

The Isle of Wight ride was far more physical, though we rode at a moderate pace, over the 66 miles there’s 3,267 feet of climbing (good practice for Cornwall and Devon on Lejog). At 30 miles we were both fine, if a little damp and stopped for lunch. At 40 we’d both had enough but still had another 25 to do.

Shortly after, we both started to cramp a little and eventually I had to stop a couple of times as mine got the better of me. After that I was able to ride through it. But this time Karon was worse for despite tea stops, lunch and a Gel before the last big climb, her blood sugar dived to 1. something. Not good if it drops below 3.5 really. We waited until she was able to get back on the bike and I told her not to pedal unless she really wanted to. The rest of the way was either downhill of fairly flat. Once back and waiting for the ferry, it took her a while to warm up and get back to feeling ok.

We’ve ridden 50 in the easy terrain of the New Forest but it looks like 40 is our limit in tough terrain. Good job I planned on an average of 30 for Lejog.

Preparation

We’ve still to ride the Hase fully loaded but were are off to Gargrave in North Yorkshire on Friday afternoon so may take the opportunity to try it there.

the Arkel recumbent bags and Ortlieb rolltops

JD Tandems are hosting a social weekend 28th-29th April – some led rides and treasure hunts. I suggested to Karon we pack all our stuff into the panniers instead of taking weekend bags and we can give it a try loaded up so it doesn’t come as too much of a shock when we eventually have to do it for real. Riding there will be good too as it’s far from flat!

The following weekend we’re heading south to the Isle of Wight for the ‘Round the Island’ Randonée. This is a real test at 60+ miles and a lot of climbing!

After that it’ll only be a few weeks and we’ll be off to Penzance. Karon’s said several times she just wants to get on with it and I’m inclined to agree, though we’re both praying the weather will improve. Don’t mind the odd wet day but really don’t want to spend the whole 1,000 miles getting soaked!

Route finalised

I now have the entire route saved into my iPhone and have plotted it roughly into Google Earth.

Bob and Karon's Lejog route

Bob and Karon’s Lejog route

Penzance, Land’s End, the Lizard, Gweek, Truro, Padstow, Holsworthy, Bideford, Barnstable, Taunton, Bridgewater, Axbridge, Clevedon, Bristol, Thornbury, Gloucester, Tewksbury, Worcester, Stourport-on-Severn, Kidderminster, Bridgenorth, Telford, Whitchurch, Chester, The Wirrel, Birkenhead, Liverpool, Maghull, Southport, Preston, Lancaster, Morecambe, Kirby Lonsdale, Sedbergh, Tebay, Brampton, Longtown, Langholm, Peebles, Penicuik, Edinburgh, Dunfirmline, Kinross, Perth, Pitlochry, Dalwhinnie, Kingussie, Aviemore, Grantown-on-Spey, Boat of Garten, Inverness, Dingwall, Tain, Bonar Bridge, Lairg, Inchkinloch, Tongue, Melvich, Thurso, Castletown, Dunnet Head, John O’ Groats.

All set

So, we’re all set. Blog is set up and working and I copied a few posts across from my ‘normal’ blog to this Lejog blog. We’ve chosen a charity – Arthritis Reseach UK – and we’ve also set up page on the ‘JustGiving’ website – see the link in the list to the left.

If you’re wondering why we haven’t pushed all this through the likes of Facebook etc. it’s because we’re still a way off the start in June.

I think that maybe a week or so before we head down to Land’s End we’ll start publicising the blog and Just Giving page more. In the meantime , if you happen to come across this blog, please support us in our challenge by going to our Just Giving page and donating to Arthritis Research UK.

Thanks.

Test Ride

Hase stand and low-riders

Yesterday I fitted the Hase stand and low riders to the tandem and on waking this morning to a glorious blue sky, thought it the perfect opportunity to take it for a test ride. The stand folds up but is still quite low and Karon was worried about cornering. I said I might get that sort of angle on the track at Calshot but not on the tandem.

Anyway, we decided to head over to The Pot Kiln for some lunch. There are a couple of ridges in between us and the pub, so there was plenty of climbing. Even with the bike not loaded up with all the stuff we will need to carry for Lejog it was hard going up the steeper climbs. We find though, that providing we don’t attack the hills but just progressively drop the gears down into the granny ring and take it easy, we usually get to the top. The thought of a nice pint of ale and some excellent pub food was enough encouragement.

In all we did about 23 miles so it was a reasonable workout, especially as my legs took a hammering yesterday at the track session at Calshot Velodrome.

 

 

It’s now or never

We are at the crossroads between being able to and not. 18 months ago my hips announced to the rest of my body that they’d done their job. They ached at night, no matter how I positioned myself and while it did not keep me from deep sleep, once awake in the early hours around 4 am, I was fitful for much of the rest of the night. Glucosamine Sulphate tablets have made a big difference and nights are almost pain-free now I’ve become a pill popper.

But my problems are nothing compared to Karon’s. She has Scleroderma – ‘Systemic Sclerosis’ (SS), an auto-immune disorder that makes her immune system attack her own body, particularly the more delicate cells of the internal organs. The most obvious effect of this at the moment is that she is diabetic. Has been since she was 16 and though she often wishes she was just ‘normal’, she has learned to cope with it and manages it very well. Unseen and not immediately apparent is the damage the SS has done to her lungs – now only about 65% efficient. In the morning she hacks like a 20 a day smoker and gets short of breath easily – just climbing the stairs makes her puff like she’s run up them a few times.

I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture.

So that’s why the Hase Pino offers so much more to us than a traditional tandem. Karon has the comfort of the recliner but more importantly, there is a free-wheel on the connecting chain, so she can stop pedalling and leave me to it. Traditional tandems don’t usually have this, so both parties have to pedal in sync all the time. On our old tandem she used to have to ask me to stop pedalling if she needed to shift her weight or take a breather. Now she can sit back and enjoy the scenery. Not that she does stop very often. She fights her illness and rarely lets it get the better of her. On hills she seems to sense when I’m flagging and puts in an amazing burst of strength just at the right time. I can feel this and it usually gives me a mental boost too. We’ve only been defeated by one hill on the Hase and have ridden some pretty steep climbs – not fast, maybe a bit wobbly, but we get there.

Karon’s illness has also set us thinking about sponsorship. Nothing decided yet but her problems and related disorders run in our immediate family. My sister was diagnosed with Lupus at 13. Two years younger than me, the doctor’s told my parents to take her away for a nice holiday once she was well enough, as she wouldn’t see her 21st birthday. This was after months in hospital and she only survived because of some strong steroids. At 58 she’s a rare survivor, having had it for so long. Our daughter inherited our defective genes and has fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis – not something you want in your early 20’s. She says she has the body of an 80 year old.

So, no decision on sponsorship, but if we do set something up it’ll be shared between Lupus, Fibro and Sclerosis research and treatment charities. You may think that’s a bit selfish and we thought about the BDA (British Diabetic Association) and cancer charities – Karon’s Dad and my Mum both died before their time because of it, but they are always in the public eye and pretty well funded. Karon and Hannah both take an interest in a Fibro/auto-immune site called ‘but you don’t look sick’ and that phrase sums it up. When Hannah was 21 and before the medication regime she is on now had been developed, I pushed her around Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight in a wheelchair. When she was bad, she couldn’t even get out of bed. At the moment you wouldn’t know she had any problems – except, if you watched her for long enough you would see that she doesn’t run or do anything ‘energetic’.

Whether Hannah’s current state is a result of the steroids and other pills she pops daily or that she’s just in remission, I don’t know. It could go bad again anytime. And how does Karon cope with her problems? Again, she pops loads of pills each morning. Injects herself before every meal and at bedtime. Gets tired way too early and needs her sleep – double what I need. Her heart/lung specialist is surprised that she rides a bike at all, and amazed that she actually rides up hills on it. She has no saliva because her glands have been destroyed by the SS. So without the protection of saliva, her teeth just crumbled away. She has constantly dry eyes and has to use drops because her tear ducts have succumbed too. Almost every time she eats, at some stage her throat closes up in reflex and she just has to wait for it to relax. She has patches of Fibro and has had hydrocortizone injections in both hands and shoulders. My sister’s life was turned upside-down by her Lupus. It’s nearly claimed her several times and because of it and the side effects of her treatment, she couldn’t have children, can’t go out into the sun without being totally covered, has spent most of her adult life in constant joint-pain and has endured several major ops.

Lupus, Fybromyalgia and Systemic Sclerosis are all researched by ‘Arthritis Research UK’. They also help sufferers remain active through pain management and relief, provide information and campaign, raise awareness among both the public and Government. In short, their aim is to make a real difference to peoples’ lives. So any sponsorship raised by us will go to Arthritis Reasearch UK.

Lejog early thoughts

We’re limiting our mileage so we can enjoy it more. Neither of us want it to become and endurance effort, we want it to be more of a touring holiday. We’re going to take in the Lizard, southerly most point, and Dunnet? Head, northerly most point of mainland UK. It only adds another day. The actual daily cycling is around 38 days with our modest daily target but that may well come down a bit, if the weather is good to us and we’re enjoying being out, and we’re still ok, we can push on and enjoy the riding. If it’s chucking it down and the landlady will let us stay another night, we may well take the odd extra rest day.

I think we’ll be back home inside six weeks.

I’m looking forward to the adventure of it all and have been occupying my evenings plotting different routes up the country and past the obstacles like Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and the Lake District. We are also planning the route to take in my sister’s in Cumbria at the romantically named ‘Sleetbeck’ and a friends in Dunscore, Dumfries and Galloway, where, incidentally, the bicycle first came into being. Karon also has a cousin running a B&B up in the highlands, so we will try to include them too, if it’s not too far off our route through Scotland.

My biggest worry is finding somewhere to stay in the far reaches of Scotland. Some legs are 20 odd miles and more with absolutely nothing, then one village with a pub if you’re lucky and then another 20 odd miles of nothingness.

On the routes I have explored so far, there are about three places where we MUST get a room. We did contemplate taking a small tent and sleeping bags etc. but it’s a lot of extra bulk to carry on the off-chance it will be needed. This means there’s a good case for taking a coastal route – more communities.

Bob and Karon’s Lejog

So Karon and I have decided to do – or attempt – LEJOG. I really wanted to do this before I was 50 but finding the time was the excuse I used for not achieving my wish. Now I’m self-employed, I can take all the time off I want. Karon has wangled her full leave entitlement plus unpaid leave for all of June and July.

Start decided. Early June.

We are now editors for the Tandem Club magazine which comes out every two months. We’ll get the June/July edition out the door then go… and hope we’re back in time to get the August/September out the door on schedule.

End date – around 23rd July, which coincidentally is Karon’s birthday. We’ll also celebrate my 60th and our 30th Wedding Anniversary on the road too.

 

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