Day 25 - Sunday 15th June - Stockholm -Bejing - Sydney

After a well earned sleep, I packed my gear and left it in the apartment for later collection and transit to the airport.

I took the metro 3 stops to the old city- Gamla Stan. This was also where the royal residence is. It's a area full of old building, restaurents and tourist gift shops. As I'd come from the subway and it was still early, it was quite and I found a bakery for breakfast. I was hungry and it was quite inside so I spent longer there then expected listening to Motown songs on the house music via Spotify and talking to the waitress.
The tourist arrived in numbers, some on foot from central Stockholm shopping area and many in tourist buses to the Royal Palace. I had a quick look at the Palace Gates, but saved the 160kr (about AU$20) admission and just walked around. It had a great location on the harbour and I saw the ceremonial 'changing of the guards' at the Palace.

Still in the wandering mood, I headed down to the harbour, then back up into the tourist shops in the old city. I bought two very distinctive Swedish T-shirts for the boys, with classic Volvo and SAAB cars on each.

As I had a few hours left, I browsed the CBD, and quickly realized the boy group 'One Direction' was either in or just been in town. This would explain why accommodation was so difficult to find. There were teenage girls everywhere.

With the hurdle of getting the bicycle box back to the airport still on my mind, I tracked down a shop called 'Claes Ohlsson' where I was told I may find some luggage wheels. This turned out to be an amazing hardware/general store right in the city, where I purchase some packing tape for the final packing. There were no suitable wheels, but a reconnaissance mission between the metro and the suburban train showed I had 200m to carry the box to platform 16 at central.

After more doodling around, I caught the metro the 3 stops back to Tekniska Hogskolan station and walked back to my airbnb apartment. John the host had arrived back and helped me carry the bicycle box to the metro platform. Once at central, I was offered a hand by a local and we carried the luggage the 200m to the metro. After paying the airport surcharge fee, on top of my unlimited 24hr transport ticket, it was an easy 30 mins to the airport terminal 5. There is an airport express train, which is much more expensive, and it was good advice from the rail info people that suggested I get a 24hr ticket and then take the suburban train. Also, the single map of the transport system with major streets and suburbs, plus google maps using free roaming on my '3' UK Network, was all I needed to navigate Stockholm.

After repacking my luggage, I made it thru airport check-in. The bike box was 19,2kg and I was told the dimensions were oversize for AirChina, but he let me through anyway. Between last year and this year, I had done 4 sectors with AirChina and 2 with the excellent Norwegian Air carrier and a standard bike box had not been charged excess yet.

At 20:15, we departed late on a very full and brand new A330 Airbus heading to Beijing. Arriving late didn't worry me as I had 4+ hrs in transit. I set the alarm on the iPhone for check-in time and found a quite spot in the massive Beijing terminal to recharge my electronic devices, before catching the flight to Sydney.

From being a bad sleeper on planes, I have developed a routine to get sleep: Get on plane, do up seatbelt, fall asleep until dinner. Then I can sleep after dinner as I am not overtired.

After 11hrs we landed into Sydney Kingsford Smith airport and had a smooth passage through immigration (expected) and customs (not expected). I had wiped all the dirt off the wheels in anticipation of a grilling by customs (from previous experience). Simon picked me up on a sunny, chilly winter's Sydney morning and it was good to be home.

I was at work by 9:30 and the great cycling holiday was over.

 Bakery in the old city - Gamla Stan. Good pastries and Motown music here.

Bakery in the old city - Gamla Stan. Good pastries and Motown music here.

 ABBA is sill everywhere. I didn't go to the new ABBA museum- it did get good reviews, if a little kitch.

ABBA is sill everywhere. I didn't go to the new ABBA museum- it did get good reviews, if a little kitch.

 The cyclist being a tourist at the Royal Palace.

The cyclist being a tourist at the Royal Palace.

 The Royal Palace is quite a recent building, dating from mid 1800s.

The Royal Palace is quite a recent building, dating from mid 1800s.

 Tourism in the old city. The only place that sells SAAB t-shirts!

Tourism in the old city. The only place that sells SAAB t-shirts!

 Over the bridge to Stockholm CBD.

Over the bridge to Stockholm CBD.

 Yes, it was a glorious day - up to about 22 deg C. Great for being a tourist.

Yes, it was a glorious day - up to about 22 deg C. Great for being a tourist.

 Walking out to the brand new Airbus at Beijing airport.  Next stop Sydney.

Walking out to the brand new Airbus at Beijing airport.  Next stop Sydney.

Day 23/24 Fri 13-14th June - Vatternrundan

Distance: 300km
Overall Time 12 hrs 13 mins
Cycle time - 10:44
Wind: N-NW 20-25 km/hr
Weathers: some light rain around midnight. Min temp: 7 deg at 3:30 .
Full moon covered by cloud
Flat tyres: 4
Sleep: none
Lasagne: none

The Vatternrundan 300km is given its own blog.
The rego pick up is easy and the queues are rego number based. It leads into the merchandise tent. It was full of stalls and athletes and very hot. The bicycle regulations said a bell and side reflectors are required to obey Swedish road law. Like a lot of others I purchased both, but I now know that no-one checks it. There is a rule for a steady red (rear) and white (front) rule for the bicycle. The steady red like was the norm on the ride and it was better then flashing ones when in big pelitons and concentrating.

The front light was required as it did get dark from about 11:30 -2:00. It was full moon, but there was low cloud cover, and occasional showers until about 2:30.

The start organising is well thought out. There are 3 adjoining marshaling areas, each showing the start time. When mine came up as 20:58, one early and one later were indicated.

The start was orderly and slow and we were escorted out of town by a motorcycle. Then the same shirt team took off and we hung on for dear life! With a good tailwind, in 120 mins we covered 75km, a very quick average. This finished when everyone was forced thru the food stop at Olmstad. At a minimum most take some food and a drink. This was the first of my flats and I had to buy a new tube and put it on my Vatternrunden account to paid later. It's a good system and with 23,000 cyclist this year, a small number have serious mechanical failures and these guys have fixed and mobile mechanics.

At 102km and the bottom of the lake is Jonkoping. This is famous as the meatball stop. Due to another flat needing repeat here, I just grabbed some bread rolls and headed off.

Once I started north, it was getting dark. I picked up a few fast groups and it needed full concentration in a very fast peloton in the dark, and alway passing individuals or other packs. I stopped at Fagerhult and had my second flat. The rough grovel must have been piercing my tyres as I had pumped them to 120psi for max speed. The wet weather does make these racing tyres easier to cut thru.

The ride thru the darkness was a series of bunch riding and then on my own after a flat in the forest. This was the most difficult to change as I only had the bicycle light and I found a small gap in the trees to get off the narrow road. It took two attempts as the first time I didn't get the tyre properly on the rim. By this stage I was sick of changing tubes and would need to buy another new tube at the next service stop. A service vehicle did come by and ask me if I was ok, which was reassuring.

I was looking forward to the lasagne stop at Hjo, where I arrived when the sun was just rising. I couldn't see any lasagne so ate more bread buns (at least 10 for the night) and banana and had a very enjoyable cup of tea (alla Guy Martin) and sent my first messages home:

Dad to pat:
"4:00am done 173 km. legs ok. 4 flat tyres are an annoyance"
Reply:
"4 flat tyres! Don't bikes only have 2 tyres hahahaha. Having fun?"
Dad to Pat:
"Only when I get a flat in the dark in the forest. I have already purchased two new tubes . Just unlucky. Sun rising now"
Reply:
"Hmmm I guess that's half the fun of cycling! Have fun"

So with a strong headwind and about 60% completed, the strategy was to maintain speed and conserve energy. It was interesting that if there was a bunch and I eventually thought I should do some work, a gaps of 50m would form from the second rider. I spoke to a Norwegian guy I met on the train down and back and he said the same thing. So I decided wasting energy doing a turn was just that, and I didn't have energy to waste at 180km into a 300km ride and a savage 25km/hr headwind.

I was closely watching my GPS map, and it took until 50km to go until we turned around the top of the lake and got the tailwind. I was still finding bunches to follow.

At about 33km to go, even with the tailwind and heading home , I was running out of speed legs and had not brought any magic sports gels (a mistake in reflection as I don't normally use them).

It was at this point two of use got dropped on a hill by a fast bunch and I met Alex, the German from hamburg. He had been with two friends and they mistakenly split at a food stop.

It was his chatter and encouragement that go me thru the final 30km. Even when Motala was almost in sight, the route when down a number of side roads and kept returning to the main road.

In the last 20km people seemed a lot chattier. Maybe everyone needed a distraction.

We entered Motala and over the finish line to receive our medal.alex found his friends and we rested at a bar (in Sweden there is a rule that prohibits alcoholic beer before 11am, so the Germans had one of those each). I had a much needed coke.

Then we collected our free chicken with pasta meal and another non-alcoholic beer and sat on the grass with all the other recent finishers and ate and relaxed.

Eventually we went our separate ways. I collected my bike box from the tent next to secure bike storage area. I think the storage of the box was non-standard, but being friendly they helped me out. I was give a tag to collect it.

My gear that I left pre-start was all moved to the school hall, where I could have slept on the floor with many others if required. Eventually, I packed the bike, took the bus to the station and caught the train to Hallstatt for the connection to Stockholm. I slept on the train.

Upon arrival at Stockholm central, it was a very tiring lug of the box to the metro, and once at Tekniska Hogskolan metro station, I arranged with the tenant of my airbnb apartment to meet me.

After a long time without sleep and 300km on the legs, I went to sleep.

 20:58 was my starting time. It was cooler then expected, so I left the jacket on. That was useful as it rained later.

20:58 was my starting time. It was cooler then expected, so I left the jacket on. That was useful as it rained later.

 Spot the 'shirts' - Orange and Blue- they set the pace, and I hung on for the first 75km.

Spot the 'shirts' - Orange and Blue- they set the pace, and I hung on for the first 75km.

 Heading out of Motola with a tailwind. I soon moved up behind the 'shirts', to avoid being dropped. I may not be the fastest, but my years of road racing taught me where to sit in a bunch.

Heading out of Motola with a tailwind. I soon moved up behind the 'shirts', to avoid being dropped. I may not be the fastest, but my years of road racing taught me where to sit in a bunch.

 Artistic shot of our bunch at 40km/hr- concentration was important to maintain safety in the dark.

Artistic shot of our bunch at 40km/hr- concentration was important to maintain safety in the dark.

 A food stop- for me, it was another place to change a flat tyre. Everything was very orderly - there is no pushing.

A food stop- for me, it was another place to change a flat tyre. Everything was very orderly - there is no pushing.

 Around 3:30am, the sun rising over the lake. There were long stints of solo riding into the headwind, until I found a bunch at the right pace.

Around 3:30am, the sun rising over the lake. There were long stints of solo riding into the headwind, until I found a bunch at the right pace.

 Finished at last. I am very proud of my 21 yr old steel, hand made Greg Lemond bicycle, compared to the carbon machines that most rode. I just needed to write down the correct seat hight so it was adjusted correctly after transporting from Australia via the UK and Norway.

Finished at last. I am very proud of my 21 yr old steel, hand made Greg Lemond bicycle, compared to the carbon machines that most rode. I just needed to write down the correct seat hight so it was adjusted correctly after transporting from Australia via the UK and Norway.

 Leaving Motola by train to Stockholm- I do love that medal.

Leaving Motola by train to Stockholm- I do love that medal.

Day 22 - Fri 13th June - Oslo - Motala

There was more noise in the hostel overnight then previous nights. When the alarm woke me at 6:15, more beds had been occupied overnight. Fortunately, a loud late arriver who told everyone he was an Icelandic fisherman eventually kept the noise down. As it was the first games in the Brazilian World Cup Soccer, the interest was high with some people watching it on laptops.

The distance to the station was short, but did take 30 mins lugging the bicycle box. Once at the station, I acquired a 20k coin and got a trolley.

Reconfirming the train was late, I had some breakfast at the very clean Oslo central. We waited and waited for the train and it's departure time kept changing. The girl next to me had a bike in a bag and was going to do the same event as me. Being a Swede in Norway she translated the loud speaker status updates.

Two hours late we departed. The message was that the train was late because it was late into Stockholm the previous night and the driver required 8 hrs between turnarounds. This must be his specialist route.

Passing into Norway, my cheap UK 3G sim started working again and I texted Pat at a party and Simon watching his beloved Rabbitohs. Forget the World Cup, any weekly Rabbitoh's wins is much more important then a 4 yearly multi-billion round ball tournament.

At Hallsberg, Sweden we changed trains for Motala. There were lots more cyclists and I spoke to one Swedish newby similar to my age doing the event for the first time and a young guy doing for the 6th time. The later shoes signs of hypothermia last year, so that slowed him down as they put him in the medical tent.

After rego, putting the bike together and storing my bike box indoors, I say down for a nice bowl of pasta.

There are all variety of riders from guy in matching team shirts to old blokes with the bike they must have used in the first event in 1966 and they went anti-clockwise.

Time to go now to watch first riders go at 19:30.

 Lugging the awkward shape bicycle box from hostel to station was not fun. 

Lugging the awkward shape bicycle box from hostel to station was not fun. 

 Paul - before the Vatternrundan 300km cycle. Everyone takes this photo at the start and end. 

Paul - before the Vatternrundan 300km cycle. Everyone takes this photo at the start and end. 

 The first group leaving at 7:30. Newbys are allotted times; returners can elect to start up to Sat 5:00am

The first group leaving at 7:30. Newbys are allotted times; returners can elect to start up to Sat 5:00am

 Information overload at the start; distances, elevations. Seemed straight forward: Start, complete one lap, finish

Information overload at the start; distances, elevations. Seemed straight forward: Start, complete one lap, finish

Day 21 - Thurs 12th June - Oslo

After a big breakfast and taking some Ryvita and cheese for lunch, I went back to the railway station to be sure of the logistics for my departure at 7:30 on Friday morning from Oslo to Motala, Sweden.

In need of bike lights, I went to a general sporting gear shop and bought a small head and taillight for the Vatternrundan. The rule say the light cannot be flashing and these small ones say they lasted 30 hrs on steady.

Being a nice day,I walked to the fortress and spent a couple of hours in the free military museum. It was interesting and gave me more history of Norway's independence and attempted neutrality in WW2. The seemed to have been at war with Sweden or Denmark for 900 yrs.

there was a big cruise ship berth right at the fortress.

I went for a short bike ride and then packed my bike and met Kitab for a final catchup.

It's an early start and I just need to print my starting sheet for tomorrow night. Weather predictions look good (19 - 6 degrees c and partly sunny) for 300km overnight bike ride.

 The 13th century fortress could not hold back this ship. It's a great view from here

The 13th century fortress could not hold back this ship. It's a great view from here

 Went for a short cycle and 15 mins later I'm in a cattle grazing paddock.the sign looked worth a photo

Went for a short cycle and 15 mins later I'm in a cattle grazing paddock.the sign looked worth a photo

 Oslo hostel Central - great location and well presented- highly recommended, and breakfast included 

Oslo hostel Central - great location and well presented- highly recommended, and breakfast included 

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Day 20 - Wed 11th June - Around Oslo

With two days to the 300km Vatternrundan, I thought best to do some cycling. After a relaxed start, I had a filling breakfast at the hostel, as well as made a roll for lunch (not strictly allowed, but suggested by experienced hostel staying son)

It was almost lunchtime before I programmed the GPS with the lat/long of some suggested forest destinations for a ride. Without road maps for Norway on the bicycle Garmin, it's basically using the compass. It's a bit old school navigation but it works.

I headed off, riding on the 'wrong' side of the road and very aware that there were tram tracks to swallow skinny bike tires and trams that also could come the 'wrong' way. In the true tradition of GPS navigation and adhering to one of the many Gardner cycle touring rules, the GPS took me along what seemed like the longest stretch of cobblestone road in Oslo.

Eventually I passed Kitab's local bar and put a waypoint in the GPS so I could find it again this afternoon. The ride up the hill started gradual. There are lots of bike paths and lots of commuters on bikes both young and old. Helmets seem to spoil the flowing blonde hair look, so are only used by the hard core, racing look types in Lycra. The connection seems to be no Lycra/no helmet.

Kitab pointed out that 2XU Skins are the national dress. People seem to wear them everywhere and mix and match all outfits to incorporate these skins pants.

I think I have worked out why the majority of people here appear so slim; they cannot afford to eat.
E.g. small burger-king meal costs about $14.50 ($6 at home). Coke in a 7-11 is over $5. Banana $2. There are no low end restuarent, so $50 per person is about the starting price for a nice dinner at a bar.
Apparently they have the highest average salary in Europe. There are not lots of top earners, just a higher wage for the bottom end. Overtime is scare and as an electrician Kitab works 37.5 hrs/work and finishes Friday at 12:30. It appears our work/life balance is too far to the right if Norway is to the left.

As a port city, Oslo is surrounded by mountains, so as I ascended towards my waypoint, I could see the ski jump in the distance. Noting its compass bearings, I changed direction more to the west and after a lot of winding roads arrived at the Holmenkollen, a newly built(2010) ski jump to replace the old one Karen and I had visited in 1983.

It was an amazing engineering structure and seemed insane that skiers would be mad enough to fly off. Even the seating in the spectator area was steep.

From here, I could see a communication's tower further up, so figured it would be the highest point and worth a few more vertical meters. There were a number of road cyclists either descending at speed or overtaking me, so I knew it was a popular route.

At the top, after 20km and at an altitude of 533m was the Oslo winter park ski area. I then descended down another road and came past what looked like a big car park with cross country skiers going around and around on theirs roller blade like summer skis. Every couple of laps they would take their gun off, shoot at a target and then off they would go. Judging by their kit bag they were at least in the national team and looked fit.

The plan was to meet Kitab at 17:00, so I was a bit early and met Kristen riding her push scooter home from work.

We got the mountain bikes ready and rode up the direction I had been earlier, then veered east towards the forest and lake at Sognsvann (my original destination). We cycled quite a distance along fire trails and were passed by many cyclist and passed many runners (most in 2XU tights! ). It was a glorious evening and perfect for cycling. It was Kitab's first cycling there in daylight as he was use to turning on all the bike lights and going around the trail in the dark, and with snow patches.

We descended back to his place and I rode back to the hostel. I then spent a number of hours setting up an AirBnB profile (difficult) and booking a well located place in Stockholm for Saturday night. I booked a 14:30 train from Motala which will get me to Stockholm central at 19:30. Hopefully I will finished the 300km in less then 17 hrs!

Tired from two big cycling outings I fell into bed after dinner at Hungry Jacks.

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Day 19 - Tues 10th June - Oslo airport - Oslo

After a few hours sleep at the airport, I took the airport train to the city major train terminal.the train was very fast and had free Wifi, so I contact home via Skype. I had to get a PIN for my MasterCard as all ticket vending machines appear cashless, and I've since found most of Oslo is cashless (and expensive)

Getting the bicycle box the 800m from the train central to the hostel was a tiring haul. There was a luggage trolley at the station, but I did not have the coins. I will definitely use on to go back on Friday morning for the train to Motala. Also the bicycle box seems to be ok as luggage in the trains so far, as I have read Swedish trains are not bike friendly (cross fingers for next train)

After checking into excellent Oslo Hostel Central (corner of Kongengsgate & radhusgata), I was glad to put the bike box in the storage room and not lug it any further.

My plan was to wander around. I headed to the harbour, passed the terminal for the Copenhagen ferries, and continued many pleasure boats and sightseeing cruise boats. It was a glorious day, in the mid 20s and I even saw a couple knee deep in the water, which would still be very cold.
Eventually I ended up at the architecturally distinct Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art. There were new units called the Tjuvholmen executive suit.

On the walk back to the hotel I passed the Nobel Peace Prize building. After a chat to home, I had a long awaited sleep.

At 17:00 after a mixup of location I met Kitab and we had a tourist bar bier, then walked the 2.5 km to Christen's place. On the way we passed the Royal Families Palace, which was in a grand park, but had no large fence or tank proof barricades, such as there are the Whitehouse.

After a dinner at a local bar, we checked the time and it was 10:30 and still light. It was a safe walk home thru the park, as many others were out.

It was a long and interesting day in this clean, expensive city.

 My first sight of Oslo harbour after checking into the hostel. It was a beautiful, warm day.

My first sight of Oslo harbour after checking into the hostel. It was a beautiful, warm day.

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 The 13th Century Fortess - a popular tourist site and harbour viewing vantage point

The 13th Century Fortess - a popular tourist site and harbour viewing vantage point

  Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art

 Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art

 Kitab - still giving the thumbs up!

Kitab - still giving the thumbs up!

 Kitab and Paul being tourist at the King and Queen's castle - we we're suppose to meet here but the terminology of the word castle had us in two locations about 2 km apart.

Kitab and Paul being tourist at the King and Queen's castle - we we're suppose to meet here but the terminology of the word castle had us in two locations about 2 km apart.

 Kitbat's local bar on the right. It's a very nice area to live.

Kitbat's local bar on the right. It's a very nice area to live.

 The Royals Residence (Castle ). It was 22:30 and still not dark

The Royals Residence (Castle ). It was 22:30 and still not dark

Day 18 - Monday 9th June: Wick - Edinburgh - Oslo

The alarm woke me and I had a tea and toast in the hotel, before cycling the short distance over the bridge to the station. The train had been there the night before and I was instructed where to store my bicycle. With 3 carriages I think there were only 6 bike spots and I had one for the sector to Inverness.

The bicycle logistics for the return trip were hard to fully understand from the Internet and I was glad when I collected my tickets in Glasgow that the bicycle had at least a reserved spot to get me out of Wick. I was told a number of time of LEJOG cyclists who had been kicked off due to no bicycle reservations.

The train to Inverness covered a lot of yesterday's cycle route and went via Thurso. The depart from Thurso would have worked just as well as overnighting in Wick and boarding the train.

I had a triathlete vet from Thurso going to a course and she gave me a good description of the triathlons and also some surfing spots around Thurso. Thurso sounded like it had a strong outdoors culture and a lot of young people to participate. For such a remote location it seemed to offer a lot, and from my brief look it seemed big enough with facilities. I think a spring suit would never get used as I was told by some divers the water was 9 degrees on Sunday, and this couple had been in wearing dry suits.

I made the change at Inverness to Edinburgh train and got a bike box in from the second bike shop I asked. With 40 mins between connections, I made it with minutes to spare.

With no reserved bike spot I negotiated with conductor to be allowed to disassemble my bike on train, packed my bike in box and store it in the large luggage rack. As the train was quite full I was fortunate.

Getting the bike box was a comedy. Cycling back to ("the" is dropped in Scotland) train station thru round abouts must have looked strange and it was difficult to manage in the wind.

Fortunately after packing, I could wash my black hands on the train and had an OK train sandwich for lunch.

Getting the bike boxed ready for the flight was the last obstacle, and it was good to have it sorted. The only hurdle was getting the peddles off, as I forgot to oil the thread and after all the kms and hills they were screwed tight.

I bought some packing tape at Edinburgh station, took the bus to the airport and spent the spare hour till check-in opened taping up the box edges and corners. Having seen my box come thru Frankfurt oversize luggage with the bottom burst, I believe extra tape (even over the staples) and a strap all the way around are good insurance.

There were patches of snow on the hills out of Inverness.

The Norwegian airlines got me and the bicycle to Oslo airport, about 30km north of the city. Arriving at midnight, I collected the bicycle box and a trolley and found one of the few spare seats in departures for my night's shelter.

It never gets really dark over night, with only about 3 hours of official darkness.

The end of a long transit day and first non-cycling in a while.

 Departing Wick on the small train. Fortunately I could get a bicycle reservation for this sector to Inverness.

Departing Wick on the small train. Fortunately I could get a bicycle reservation for this sector to Inverness.

 The train route from Wick to Edinburgh 

The train route from Wick to Edinburgh 

 Arrived at Edinburgh. The bicycle was packed into the box between Inverness and Edinburgh. 

Arrived at Edinburgh. The bicycle was packed into the box between Inverness and Edinburgh. 

 The only photo of Edinburgh I took. At the back of the train station.

The only photo of Edinburgh I took. At the back of the train station.

 Flying Edinburgh to Oslo on the excellent Norwegian airlines.

Flying Edinburgh to Oslo on the excellent Norwegian airlines.

Day 17, Sunday 8th June, 2014 - Helmsdale to Wick

Dist : 141.76 km
Riding time: 6:52:47
Total time (including stops) : 9:36
Stops: 3
Climb meters up/down 1,217/1,333
Max height: 233m at 9:42
Wind: 50% headwind/50% tailwind

My last day of LEJOG started with a beautiful clear sky and tailwind. The green farm paddocks down to the ocean cliffs looked even greener today, and the sheep even blah, blah a few times as I rode past. There were lots of new lambs eating well. I told them they probably had a relative in Australia!

Pre-warned about the Helmsdale climb/descent and then the more dangerous Berriedale sharp corner, I enjoyed the descents after the long climbs to as high as 233m. I was told that at the bottom hairpin was the accident location where a LEJOG cyclists had crashed last year on their final day and was airlifted out.

At Latheron, I took a left on the A9 and headed towards Thurso via a reasonably flat route. There were no towns with a general store so I ate my banana on the roadside. It continued via the interestingly named Spittal. There was a mix of sheep and cattle farms, peat farm, wind farm and a stone quarry.

About 7km outside Thurso, the two approaching thunder storms seemed to find me and I quickly covered up and cycled through some heavy rain.

Arriving in Thurso, I found a Tesco super market to dry off, get some lunch and call home. Eventally the rain passed and with the sun coming out I headed on 30km to John O'Groates. On the way I passed the scenic and possibly good surfing spot of Dunnet Bay.

As I expected JOG was an anti-climax. I took some photos, noted down the km and continued the last section to Wick.

Dinner was in the hotel, before having a look for the train station, so I could make the 8:12 train.

So my LEJOG is complete.  I felt a sense of excitement starting the last day and finished the day both tired and satisfied.

 Culgower House - just out of Helmsdale, Scotland. The nicest place I stayed- more suited to a romantic weekend then a roof for a smelly cyclist.

Culgower House - just out of Helmsdale, Scotland. The nicest place I stayed- more suited to a romantic weekend then a roof for a smelly cyclist.

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 This pass was a decent climb and a great descent

This pass was a decent climb and a great descent

 Almost at John O'Groates- the headland is the most northerly point. JOG is the most NE point.

Almost at John O'Groates- the headland is the most northerly point. JOG is the most NE point.

 Thurso - a nice town and anything Murray deserves a photo

Thurso - a nice town and anything Murray deserves a photo

 After 1673 km and 11.5 days, I was rewarded with a fine days (for this moment) and the mandatory photo

After 1673 km and 11.5 days, I was rewarded with a fine days (for this moment) and the mandatory photo

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 My final cycling destination in Scotland. I was tired at this point and just down the road was the culturally significant Tesco supermarkets to welcome me.

My final cycling destination in Scotland. I was tired at this point and just down the road was the culturally significant Tesco supermarkets to welcome me.

Day 16, Saturday 7 June,2014- Inverness to Helmsdale

Dist : 129.73 km
Riding time: 6:52:15
Total time (including stops) : 9:30
Stops: 4
Climb meters up/down 855 /878
Max height: 133m at 10:45
Wind: 70% headwind/30% tailwind

The last push up the coast into a 20km/hr headwind made it a long afternoon. The sunny day and North Sea scenery made arriving at the magnificent Culgower House B&B very welcome.

From Inverness, it was quite flat around the River Ness to the Kessock Bridge across the Beauty Firth (which becomes the North Sea).

Heading toward Dingwall, both GPSs sent me up a country lane, which was hillier than the other way, but much quieter.
On this route I came across the monument to Sir Hector Archibald MacDonald. He had an impressive military record, fighting in 14 different theatres of war, mentioned 11 times in despatches, awarded 10 decorations and 14 clasps. He finished up a Major General and was "thanked in both Houses of Parliament" and his friends built him a big, round stone obelisk overlooking a sheep farm. It didn't mention if he was married or had kids or the stone mason ran out of energy on the inscription. Only the empire could have been juggling that many battles at once.

After feeling humbled by Sir Hector's achievements, I peddled a bit faster and eventually joined the A9. This is the main highway to John O'Groates. The descent to the Cromarty Bridge was just the right gradient to make the 139m ascent worthwhile.

I passed thru Evanton, Alness and eventually Tain. My GPS could never find the later. Here I crossed the long Dornoch Firth bridge.

Tain was where I had to decide whether to take the high road via Bonar Bridge to the north coast or stay on the A9 along the south coast. I stuck with the later as the other route was hilly, and I was still to book accommodation.

At Alness I bought a hot chocolate as a vey late morning tea, and ate some of the Aldi fudge I bought bought in Inverness when I also bought breakfast of choco milk and 6 bread rolls. Aldi is really cheap!

I had already tried to find a bed using the usual booking.com. They were either too far along the route or two expensive. After calling a number in Helmsdale with no bites, I was lucky to get the last room at Culgower House.

Today I passed at least three JOGLE riders and had a long chat to Steve from Falmouth (the south coast of England). Like me, he was traveling light on a road bike with a Topeak seat post rack on his Specialised road bike. He had started today and was making good speed with a tailwind.

I listened on Internet radio to the last 15 mins of the Rabitohs games and they won. Just up the road the GPS took me off the busy A9 via Logie Hill. It was a quite, country road, with the only negative being chased by a sheep dog. I was ready and hit top speed to outrun it.
As usual, the scenery was very green and temp was 22 degrees with clear skies.

Dinner was a tasty pasta dish whipped up by the host, Catriona.
The house is a fantastic renovation.

Tomorrow is the last day, and I'll probably follow the A9 route.

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Day 15, Friday 6 June, 2014 - Fort William to Inverness

Dist : 114 km
Riding time: 6:16
Total time (including stops) : 9:00
Stops: 4
Climb meters up/down 1,150 /1,136
Max height: 378m at 15:33

Opposite the Youth Hostel was the Glen Nevis. This is the highest mountain, at 1,344 metres in the British Isles. Base elevation is 20m, so it's a fair climb up the easiest route called the pony track. They drove a T-model ford up in 1927 as a publicity stunt. The vertical face at 700m is popular for ice climbing. There were a number of folks heading up into the cloud, hoping it would clear for a great view.

Leaving Fort William, I passed the Ben Nevis Distillery. Distilleries are everywhere with their distinctive grey, windowless concrete walled warehouses. I also called home on Skype, which is covenient, generally good quality and always good to hear of the family activities.

Next I stopped for a photo at the monument to the Unknown Soldier, near Spean Bridge. There were a couple of buses visiting the monument.

The ride along the A82 was quite difficult as the timber trucks belted along. Loch Lochy was scenic and quite long. Stopping past Invergarry, I met another cyclist traveling from Inverness to Glen Coe. Sandy was a local and advised me to go on the south side of Loch Ness, which I did.

I took the cycle path along the canal locks to Fort Augustus, then watched as a boat moved through the canals. It was very touristy, including a kilted, bag pipe playing Scotsman getting photos taken.

The climb up to the peak of 378m seemed to go forever. It was sunny and getting warmer. Near the top, there was a Dutch family doing some fishing in a small loch.

Eventually, I made it over the highest point and enjoyed the descent through Whitebridge to Foyers. There I enjoyed a great piece of carrot cake, and read of the original Foyers Aluminium Company.This was Britain's first aluminium smelter and used a newly build hydro electic generator.

The descent continued along the single lane military road alongside Loch Ness. I saw the Urquhart Castle, but not the monster.

Eventually, I made it to the City of Inverness. It had grand houses alongside the river on the way in.

I rode up the hill to my very grand Beauford Hotel, checked in and had a very good dinner.

Just two day's cycling to go and the weather may hold off till I get to top.

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Day 14, Thursday 5 June, 2014 - Hamilton to Fort William

Dist : 200.54 km
Riding time: 10:01
Total time (including stops) : 12:00
Stops: 3
Climb meters up/down 1,355 /1,538
Max height: 351m at 18:15
Wind: 40% tailwind & 60% headwind

The weather improved, with just some drizzle periods, mainly going through Glasgow. There was lots of signage and construction for the Commonwealth Games in July.

Just north of Glasgow I passed by rows and rows of concrete sheds which turned out to be the storage for Dywers Whisky

Loch Lomond was very scenic, with the fog on the hills.

A late lunch of a ham & cheese toastie was had a lovely little tea house in Tarbet. It had a fine collection of "Duchess" and "Majestic" fine bone china cup and saucers for a cup of tea. I had a coke, but still admired them on the table.

There were two long, gradual climbs in the day, both above 330m, and the descents down were welcome, especially the last one into Glencoe. It had been my original destination, but due to the high cost of one night's shelter (>£65 or AU$130), I picked a cheap hostel just out of Fort William. As it was now 19:30, I called ahead to let them know I would be late, and would get dinner in Fort William.

Arriving at my destination after my longest day deserved celebration, and I had a glass of wine with my vegetable lasagna. As sunset was not until 22:00, I had enough time for dinner and still enough light to cycle the 5 km to the hostel.

Being last into a shared room meant I got the worst bed, top bunk near the door.

Tomorrow is past Loch Ness and the Urquhart Castle we saw whilst back packing 31 yrs ago. It is shorter day at 131 km and weather predicted to be fine.

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Day 13, Wednesday 4 June, 2014 - Gretna Green to Hamilton

Dist : 134 km
Riding time: 6:51
Total time (including stops) :
Stops: 3
Climb meters up/down 896/855 m

Today was a tough day.
It was difficult waking up and then checking the weather forecast and looking out the window was an indicator to the day ahead.

I left the factory outlet and reception centres of Gretna Green behind, traveling north on A74 on a wet road. It was not raining for a while and in the first undulating 15km, I had the Chinese students from Liverpool on their 125cc motorcycles pass me. They had finished for semester and where on a "big adventure " to Fort William. Next I met another cyclist coming the other way. His name was Peter and he had a load on - 100 lbs including bike (about 45kg ). He gave me a lot of advice about camping, as he had slept on the side of the road overnight and woke at 5:30 freezing. I couldn't bring myself to tell him I was "credit card camping". Peter has ridden from Birmingham to JOG and was on his way back having done 1100miles (1700km). He was a character and was using plastic bags for shoe overboots. We wished each other well and headed in opposite directons.

At Lockerbie, I had morning tea then cycled thru Sherwood Crescent where 11 locals in a town of 4000 died when the fuel tanks and wing of PAN AM Flight 103 hit several houses and left a large crater which become the iconic photo of the PAM AM terrorist explosion on 21 Dec 1988. We were in the US at the time and there was obviously blanket coverage, and the plane had many students returning home for Xmas. This quiet, Scottish town seemed so disconnected from a disaster that redefined airline terrorism and brought the end of PAN AM which was the largest US International airline at the time. It ceased operation in 1991 after 64 yrs.

The road north was quite undulating, and had excellent cycle paths in a number of spots. Some were separate paths which is even better.

I struggled to get to Larkhall, as my hands were so numb I couldn't change gear or brake properly. There I bought some rubber gloves, consumed 6 small caramel tarts and a hot chocolate. Heading back into the north west wind with rain coming down was not pleasant , but my hands were dryer and warmer.

Further out the road, I took a wrong turn and ended up in a road house and took the opportunity to use the hand warmers in the bathroom. There were a motorcycling couple trying to warm up. The were from nth Spain and had gone to the TT as well. The afternoon trip up the M6 would have been wet and cold. They also where going to Fort William

Eventually I cycled into Hamilton and found a hotel. Turns out it is famous for its tapas, which I enjoyed for dinner.

Tomorrow is forecast to be wet, clearing for fine on Friday,

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Day 12, Tuesday 3 June, 2014 - Morecambe to Gretna Green

Dist : 134 km
Riding time: 6:44
Total time (including stops) : 9:30
Stops: 5
Climb meters up/down 1,203/1,253

At 18:40, I arrived at Gretna Green, famous for first town in Scotland and wedding capital.

Morning tea was at Kendal, where a patron gave me a history lesson on the 1980 cricket ashes and a bonus weather report.

Just north of Kendal, I met my first LEJOG cyclist and rode with him over Shap pass (430 m). The weather was clearing, with a nice tailwind. The views were fantastic. It seemed to be getting even greener the further north I went.
The descent was a long and consistent, and we covered the kilometres down to Shap quickly. There I got some tips from Nigel and he booked into his B&B and I continued as it was 14:00 and I was half way.

I continued via the large city of Perth and Carlisle onto Gretna Green.

Dinner was in the hotel and I was tired after a long day. Hoping the three flat rear tyres are behind.

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Day 11, Monday 2 June, 2014 - Castletown to Douglas IOM.

Dist : 31 km
Riding time: 1.57
Total time (including stops) :
Stops: 1
Climb meters up/down 375/391

My body needed the sleep-in till 8:00, and I packed up and left Mike a "thank you" note and key as he was sleeping off his 3:00am big night.

The weather was dry and clearing and a marshall waiting for a bus told me the 10:45 start had been delayed due to fog on the mountain stopping the helicopter getting up.

Having a flat tyre to start the day, I decided to combine fixing it with breakfast, which I bought at the local store.

The ride back to Douglas was undulating with Murray Hill being the highlight as I raced down at 71km /hr. Unfortunately, I had another flat at the bottom due to the morning patch giving up.

The first part of the race track I came to was quarter bridge, which was about 2 km from the start and the first major corner coming down Bray Hill. Some other spectators gave me advice and I decided I'd stay there as I was early for the now 14:00 schedule Supersport race start.

I had a prime spot against the wire fence with the bikes turning in front of us.

The 4 lap race started on time and the bikes leave in 10 sec intervals. It was easy to hear them coming. The corner was a tricky downhill right handed, so they were heavy on the brakes going into the turn. It was interesting to see the corner lines of the front and back markers. The bikes were considerably faster on the second lap, as their tires warmed up. At the end of lap two, they have a pit change. The final result was very close finishing at 0.5sec, from 10 secs at the start of the last lap.
Results:
1. Gary Johnson - on a Triumph
2. Bruce Anstey- a kiwi on a Honda
3. Michael Dunlop - TT Superstar (8 TT wins) and nephew of the TT legend Joey Dunlop (26 TT wins)

The Supersport final was followed by one lap of practice for the mad sidecar rider/passengers and then the earie silence (just a hum) of the electric motorcycle.

When the road opened at 16:00, the traffic went made and I cycled up Bray Hill to the start line. There I walked thru the pits and enjoyed seeing the bikes being prepared. One overwhelming impression is how accessable the entire race is. It's easy to go in the pits and also get an excellent, free vantage point.

The longest returner I met had been coming since seeing Agostini in the late 60s. They did have a presentation for a chap that had been coming to the TT for 60 yrs.

The ferry trip was smooth I a chatted with some other cyclist. I had paid £3 for a reserved seat.

I checked into my seaside hotel before midnight, and charged all the electronics ready for the ride to Carlisle tomorrow.

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Day 10, Sunday 1 June, 2014 - Garstang to Heysham. Ferry to Douglas IOM

Dist : 58 km
Riding time: 2:52
Total time (including stops) :
Stops: 4
Climb meters up/down 440/493

Even though I could sleep in as it's a short day, my alarm went off at 6:30.

I've think sometimes I am monitored at breakfast as I normally have 2 or 3 bowls of cereal, plus the "full English breakfast" and once I went back for another bowl of cereal. Starting with a full fuel load means that with just morning or afternoon tea, I get an extra hour cycling and enjoy a big dinner.

The ride to Heysham was very flat and with a slight tailwind, I had plenty of time to spare.

Heading into the scenic city of Lancaster (with the castle on the hill), I cycled with a guy going to Kendal who was out for a long ride. He had done LEJOG and experienced bad weather, including snow in Scotland in June. It was only the second time I had cycled with another rider since starting and I enjoyed the extra speed and the chat. I've noticed most road cyclist wave when passing the other way. I am surprised at the lower number of cyclist on the road from the land of Wiggle.

Whilst collecting my ferry ticket I was told I had booked on the 2:15 AM ferry, not the afternoon ferry. They told me I'd have no trouble being issued a standby ticket. I checked my return was correct.

With spare time, I decided to do a reconnaissance to the hotel I had booked for Monday night. As I arrived back on the ferry at 23:15, I want to be sure of the details. The cycle to the beachfront hotel at Moorecambe took 15 minutes. I asked in the hotel that my booking was correct and the logistics of securing my bicycle, and both were good. The hotels, B&B and guest houses are all forth coming in provided secure bicycle storage, even if it's just a laundry or unused function room.

The ferry over was packed and I found a seat. The dress code was predominately black leather and the bar did a good trade. When boarding the ferry I met a guy who was been every year since 1985, and took his bikes in a van. The motorcycle shipping reservations books out 12 mths ahead, and judging by the number they can pack in at £120 each (plus normal ticket of £55 return), it's a good money spinner.

My accomodation with my friend's friend was in Castletown, about 16km from the ferry terminal at Douglas. It was hillier then expected, and the expected rain had arrived, being only light at this stage. Into Castletown I passed the airport and magnificent building which turned out to be a private (aka public) school from 1833.

It took me a while to find the accommodation as I could not call Mike as my cheap UK sim does not have roaming. In the end he spotted me looking lost as he was at the local pub.

After a shower, I found the last place serving dinner in town (Indian) before retiring to bed.

There are a lot of motorcycles, most from the older motorcyclists age band. There are also some old motorcycles. It seems from a same sample of the few I have spoken to that coming back is a the normal.

Tomorrow I see the TT ! The schedule is:

Monday 2nd June, 2014

R- 10:45: Supersport TT Race 1- 4 laps
Q- 12:30 - 13:00 Sidecars
Q- 16:00 - 16:30: TT Zero Challenge
R- 14:00: Superstock TT Race 4 laps

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Day 9, Saturday 31 May, 2014 - Crewe to Garstang

Dist : 113 km
Riding time: 5:42
Total time (including stops) : 7:45
Stops: 3
Climb meters up/down 650/694

Today was the flattest day of cycling, and the weather started out grey and by mid-afternoon was a stunning, clear skies. This brought out lots of POMs in their summer outfits, but still a bit cool at 16 deg for me.

The cycling was a day of surprises. I try to do a bit of research in case a deviation takes me past a tourist attraction, but generally it's a full time job planning the route and writing up the blog.

Leaving Crewe, I went via a quite road to Middlewich which seemed to be famous for dairy farming and cat fishing. The smell of a dairy farm is never forgotten.

I had morning tea (yep >20km cycled) at a lovely coffee shop in Warrington, before heading towards Preston.

At Northwich, there was a narrow boat canal about 1 metre above the rode, which seemed strange to see boats at a level above. Turns out this was not unusual, as the area is full of canals and locks and caravan style narrow boats traveling up and down.

The rugby league city of Wigan was next, where I found a nice statue of an oval ball. It was a large city, full of round-abouts and shopping centers.

At Bamber Bridge, there was the skeleton of an amazing old building. Some local kids told me they had knocked the best bits down, and it had been a cotton mill. WWW told me it was 100yr old Bamber Bridge Spinning & Weaving Company Mill that had closed in 1959, and just this building was preserved for inclusion in future housing development.

On towards Preston, I spotted a cycling path sign and this took me and many others out on this nice day along an old railway track cycling path. There was a rock concert in a paddock just out of Preston - younger generation of Jimmy Pages belting out classic rifts.

Preston had grand old building and a wonderful park along the river.

Next it was the remaining km to my hotel on the other side of Garstang. After a shower, and plugging in all the electronics to be daily charged, I walked the kilometre back to town for a look. The houses I saw had immaculately maintained garden, and the town was neat and tidy, and claimed be the first "free trade town" in UK.

Dinner was in the hotel, and I noted an up coming 'Northern Soul and Motown' music night.

Tomorrow it's 30km cycling only to the Heysham Ferry Terminal for the 4 hour ferry to the IOM. It's getting exciting as there are now lots of motorcycles in the road heading to the ferry.

 The scenic country lane the GPS tried to ignore.

The scenic country lane the GPS tried to ignore.

 Bamber Bridge Mill redevelopment site. The local kids told me they knocked down the best part- at least they kept this part.

Bamber Bridge Mill redevelopment site. The local kids told me they knocked down the best part- at least they kept this part.

 This was my first contact with narrow boats in the canal system. Seeing the boats being higher then the road was at first strange.

This was my first contact with narrow boats in the canal system. Seeing the boats being higher then the road was at first strange.

 Before I saw the produce, I could smell this was a dairy farm. That smell is never forgotten.

Before I saw the produce, I could smell this was a dairy farm. That smell is never forgotten.

 A morning coffee break at Stockton Heath, near Warrington.

A morning coffee break at Stockton Heath, near Warrington.

 A Rugby League monument at Wigan- the British home the Rabbitoh's games.

A Rugby League monument at Wigan- the British home the Rabbitoh's games.

 Upstream on a famous river that winds it's way down to Liverpool.

Upstream on a famous river that winds it's way down to Liverpool.

 One of the many narrow riverboats- many owned by grey nomads.

One of the many narrow riverboats- many owned by grey nomads.

Day 8, Friday 30 May, 2014 - Leominster to Crewe

Dist : 129km
Riding time: 6:12
Total time (including stops) : 8:00
Stops: 2
Climb meters up/down 799/924

The long days of cycling are taking a toll on my early starts and after breakfast I delayed my start setting up the GPS and doing this blog.

After 20km of rough road, with little to no road edges I stumbled across the most magnificent medieval town of Ludlow. Following the Gardner cycle touring rule, that 20km was enough to earn morning tea, I had a tasty, calorie loaded hazelnut & pecan meringue and called home on Skype to exchange news. Eventually I had to leave and headed over the rolling hills to Shrewsbury, and visited a museum at the battle field where the Lancastrian King Henry IV defeated Northumbrian rebels.

The trip continued at a steady pace, via Shewsbury, Whitchurch, Nantwich and the 6km over to my cheap Armada hotel. There was lots of sheep and dairy farm, all very green.

Dinner was early in the hotel and then some planning for the next day's 122km to Garstang.

Today's cycling was the roughest roads yet. The weather was overcoats, with a headwind all day.

 The Royal Oak Hotel - Leominster. A classic pub with a comfortable lumpy bed.

The Royal Oak Hotel - Leominster. A classic pub with a comfortable lumpy bed.

 Ludlow - a great medieval town and wonderful coffee shop.

Ludlow - a great medieval town and wonderful coffee shop.

 Ludlow - lots of tourists to fill the coffee shops. With the bicycle its easy to get around these roads, whereas with a car I would be parking a long way away and walking. Also one way streets are not a hassle- just get off and walk.

Ludlow - lots of tourists to fill the coffee shops. With the bicycle its easy to get around these roads, whereas with a car I would be parking a long way away and walking. Also one way streets are not a hassle- just get off and walk.

 I didn't venture into the castle, but did not the symbol for a castle as I would see many of these in going north.

I didn't venture into the castle, but did not the symbol for a castle as I would see many of these in going north.

Day 7, Thursday 29 May, 2014 - Burnham-on-Sea to Leominster, Herefordshire

Burnham-on-Sea to Leominster, Herefordshire

Dist : 160km
Riding time: 8:00
Total time (including stops) : 10:45
Stops: 4
Climb meters up/down 1,446/1,481

It was a long day in the saddle.
The original planned kms was 140, but somehow I added an extra 19.5km.

It was my best night's sleep since leaving home. The "Full English Breakfast" was the right amount of fuel for a full day's cycling and being a small B&B, I shared interesting conversation with other guests. The Knights Rest B&B was an excellent example of a style of accommodation not seen widely outside UK and Europe, but very pleasant to stay at.

I left at 8:45 and immediately got lost following the GPS. The words of one of my motorcycle friends rang true- alway check the GPS waypoints the night before. Still I was not in a Moroccan desert, so my safety was not at risk. Immediately after resetting the GPS, I got a flat rear tyre ( the difficult wheel ).

So I actually started at 9:30 toward the pretty town of Axbridge. Climbing the hill out I noticed a bike path that took me along an old railway track (strawberry line), including a long, dark tunnel. Although slower, it was good to relax away from traffic.

My extra kms occurred when I unintentionally went via Bristol. Here I saw the famous Clifton suspension bridge, designed by the poetically named Isambard Kingdom Brunel and finished in 1864 after riots about its design. It is attributed to the first modern bungy jump in 1979.

The ride to the Severn Bridge was via an industrial area, and the GPS and goggle maps were conflicting on their routing.

Eventually, I crossed into Wales on the 2.6km long (1966 opened ) Severn Bridge cycle path.

As I still had a long way to peddle, I stopped for fuel and cross checked the GPS and mapping and was half way at 15:30, with 82km to go before nightfall at 20:15.

The cycling in Wales was some of the best yet. Rolling hills and little scenic villages and generally careful, courteous drivers (exceptions: black Audis and white transit vans)

At the very green Chepstow horse track, the new age hippies were queuing for the 4 day 'Sunrise Organic Music Festival'.

The 100m descent into Tintern was enjoyable and the magnificent ruins of the abbey a surprise.

At Monmouth, there was a grand private school on the river with a plaque describing the effects of its bombing in 1942.

Then it was on to my booked accomodation at the Royal Oak Hotel, Leominster. I passed via Hereford, but cannot remember it. The Cadbury factory on the way into town had a wonderful aroma.

Dinner was Italian and it was getting late. It was temping to have lasagna again, but went with bruschetta and risotto. It poured rain between my arrival and walking out , so I was lucky it had been an overcast, dry day.

Tomorrow it's on to Nantwich. Just two days cycling then a rest day to go to the IOM TT.

 Strawberry Line tunnel  - more suited to a mountain bike, but a welcome break from the traffic

Strawberry Line tunnel  - more suited to a mountain bike, but a welcome break from the traffic

 Bristol Canal - they use to bring ships up here. The 1864 Cliffton suspension bridge spans the river.

Bristol Canal - they use to bring ships up here. The 1864 Cliffton suspension bridge spans the river.

 Another silent windmill generating electricity. No non-miking cows or housewives with headaches in site. These symptons must be more likely in Australia.

Another silent windmill generating electricity. No non-miking cows or housewives with headaches in site. These symptons must be more likely in Australia.

 Down the 100 metre descent to Tintern. Wales had good cycling on the roads.

Down the 100 metre descent to Tintern. Wales had good cycling on the roads.

 Back into England from Wales. I did not remember Herefordshire, but I'm sure its famous for something (other then this sign)

Back into England from Wales. I did not remember Herefordshire, but I'm sure its famous for something (other then this sign)

 Tintern Cathedral - an amazing sight as I entered the small town at speed. Not sure why is ruined.

Tintern Cathedral - an amazing sight as I entered the small town at speed. Not sure why is ruined.

 Crossing the very long Severn Bridge into Wales. By this stage of the day I was way behind schedule, as it took a long time to get onto this bridge. I could see it in the distance, but navigation thru the industrial area was not easy. This was when I realised an organised tour would not have these navigation issues, and could cover more ground as they would not get lost and add 30km to a day.

Crossing the very long Severn Bridge into Wales. By this stage of the day I was way behind schedule, as it took a long time to get onto this bridge. I could see it in the distance, but navigation thru the industrial area was not easy. This was when I realised an organised tour would not have these navigation issues, and could cover more ground as they would not get lost and add 30km to a day.

Day 6, Wednesday 28 May, 2014 - Okehampton to Burnham-on-Sea

Wed 28may 2014

Okehampton, Devon to Burnham-on-Sea (Somerset)

Dist :118km
Riding time: 6:32
Total time (including stops) : 9:15
Stops: 6
Climb meters up/down 1,332/1,512

At 18:00, I booked into a B&B at Burham-On-Sea. It's on a sea channel opposite Cardiff, and reminded me of St Kilda. I wouldn't swim in it. The plan was to go to Axbridge, near Cheddar, but it was time to stop.

I didn't do my planned km, due to two flat tires, and slower back roads.
One section of road near Uplowman was a tiny, one lane track with 3 metre hedgerows on each side. I had forced the GPS to take the road, as it was the shorter in km of the suggested route. Due to its slow avg speed, I could see why Mr Garmin thought it not the best option. It was an amazingly scenic ride, with about 2 cars for the 10 km, which took over an hour, so that impacted my daily km. It was a similar road used in movies before freeways.

From Devon to Somerset, the number of hills reduced, and my vertical climb was 1100 m less then yesterday, but still high enough. There are lots of farms and thatched roofed houses.

At Tiverton, I passed a private school called Blundell. It's buildings and grounds were amazing.

The daily routine seems to be at halfway by 14:00, so I need to get started earlier to get an afternoon rest.

Tomorrow, I go to Leominster via Severn Bridge. I booked accommodation on booking.com, as it gives a target and saves time at the end.

The second flat tire today was a brand new back tire when I picked up a 25mm nail. It put 2 holes in tube. Being out of all repair needs and with spare dodgy tubes, I found a bike shop and got new tubes, waterproof overboots(I forgot mine) and another puncture repair kit. It rained lightly most of the day and will be same tomorrow. Weather predictions are for clearing later in the week.

 A scenic spot for a flat tire.

A scenic spot for a flat tire.

 I forced the GPS to follow this route as it appeared shorter on the map. It was very scenic and worth the diversion

I forced the GPS to follow this route as it appeared shorter on the map. It was very scenic and worth the diversion

 The scenic route, and a nice spot for a weekend.

The scenic route, and a nice spot for a weekend.

 Burnham-On-Sea - typical english seaside holiday town. Yes, there appeared to be a beach for swimming - Good Luck.

Burnham-On-Sea - typical english seaside holiday town. Yes, there appeared to be a beach for swimming - Good Luck.

 Burnham-On_Sea. It did have a well located pub where I ate another lasagne for dinner.

Burnham-On_Sea. It did have a well located pub where I ate another lasagne for dinner.

Day 5, Tuesday 27 May, 2014 - Penzance to Okehampton

Dist : 168 km
Riding time: 8:10:24
Total time (including stops) : 11:45
Riding time: 8:10:24
Stops: 5
Ascent/descent (m): 2,424/2,301

I arrived in Okehampton later then planned at 19:00, after 168 km today. 10 km out I went for the extra chocolate rations for an energy boost.
The GPS was showing the hotel being in a little village 11km before Okehampton. I soon found out it was the White Hart Inn, not Hotel as I had booked.  I had done a quick search and put the wrong address in the GPS.
So it was back on the bike for another tough 11km of climbing and final descent into the town. The hotel was on the way in and my bike was locked securely in the laundry.

Dinner was 2 cokes, 2 salads, garlic bread and a lasagna. I'd had a poor version of a hamburger at 13:00, so a decent pasta meal was welcome.

The riding was as expected, sharp ups and downs. Going thru Bodmin moors was on the only available road, the dual carriage A30, which to date I had done my best to avoid. The two Aussies killed last year on their first day on the A30 was mentioned by a few people I spoke to. The GPS did a good job finding the back roads, including some old roads that had to be entered via a gate. It's possible to start from Penzance on the A30, and it's fast and shortest route, but there are many warnings on the internet of the dangers and lunacy of riding with trucks and high speed traffic.

Highlights:

1. Launceston castle ruins- stumbled across it and spent an hour looking around the interesting Middle Ages ruins.

2. Cornish villages- some as close as 1km apart. Many have mining history and some of the big tailing mounds still exist and reclamation is under way.
3. Signs that display 14% descent. Enjoy it whilst it last, because physics dictates there will be a climb to match.
4. The sun was out. 40% chance of showers predicted, but it was a blue sky most of the day and generally a light tailwind.
5. Cafe Nero in Truro. A great hot chocolate at last.
6. Buying a 3G SIM for my phone with one month's unlimited data on the '3' network.
7. Talking/texting with the family. iMessage and Skype are great for keeping in contact.

 An old mine as would be expected in Cornwall - This one is between Redruth and Camborn.

An old mine as would be expected in Cornwall - This one is between Redruth and Camborn.

 Cornwall country side - my first photo of green pastures. The locals told me that this corner of the UK was the sunniest and warmest spot in the country on this day.

Cornwall country side - my first photo of green pastures. The locals told me that this corner of the UK was the sunniest and warmest spot in the country on this day.

 Launceston, Cornwall - an unexpected castle to look around.

Launceston, Cornwall - an unexpected castle to look around.

 My first major hedgerow- done without power tools

My first major hedgerow- done without power tools

 Prior to this I'd taken a 11% descent sign photo. The only down side was that the roads did not allow full advantage of the descent, due to the twists, bridges, narrowness and surface. The brakes get a workout.

Prior to this I'd taken a 11% descent sign photo. The only down side was that the roads did not allow full advantage of the descent, due to the twists, bridges, narrowness and surface. The brakes get a workout.

 Another scenic village (Camborne) - the sun is still out, so I was a happy cyclist.

Another scenic village (Camborne) - the sun is still out, so I was a happy cyclist.

 By this point I was running low on energy, so went for the Aldi dark chocolate.

By this point I was running low on energy, so went for the Aldi dark chocolate.

 Another county, another photo opportunity. The Sony Action camera in the back pocket was handy for a quick photo, either stopped or on-the-go.

Another county, another photo opportunity. The Sony Action camera in the back pocket was handy for a quick photo, either stopped or on-the-go.

 Penzance to Okehampton

Penzance to Okehampton