Lazonby to Loch Ken
“How far are you doing each day, a hundred miles?”
Oh, you pig. Start low and be impressed when we give a higher figure.
“Today we’re doing about 75 miles,” my Dad replied. The man grunted. He had started chatting to my Dad outside the gents’ bathroom. Mr 100 Miles wanted to do Land’s End to John O’Groats. I wanted to point out that 75 miles on a fully loaded touring bike up the hills is a blinking long way and he should cheer with approval, not just grunt, but decided to let him discover the truth for himself.
In contrast, the woman I met in the ladies changing rooms who asked how far I was going, replied: “Blimey, you must be fit! I did 45 miles each day in the Netherlands and it nearly killed me. Good for you!”
75 miles on four day old legs (ie no rest day since Herefordshire) is pushing what is doable on a long summer’s bike touring day. And today we had to push it a bit more. Let me explain…
In order to carry the minimum amount of stuff through Devon I gave bits of my kit to Ruth (who came out to visit us on our rest day in Herefordshire) and to my Mum (who will be joining us in Scotland). Before I left I counted out how many contact lenses I would need. I gave a pack to Ruth, a pack to my Mum and packed a week’s supply in my pannier. Ruth arrived with fresh supplies of clean undies, midge spray, snack bars and … No contact lenses. They had vanished. Eek.
Ruth, lovely and kind person that she is, collected some contact lenses from home and post them first class delivery to the campsite in Loch Ken. All is good. Except now we have 75 miles to cycle to the campsite before the reception closes.
It was a warm, bright and beautiful day. In fact, it would have been perfect cycling weather except for the head wind.
We set off at 8am. Push, push, push.
The morning was beautiful as we followed the Eden Valley. Green, luscious with low stone walls and plenty of sheep. All was going well until… Clunk. My gear skipped. I’d had an inkling before that all was not quite right with my gears. Clunk. It can’t have helped that cycling round flat, flat Belgium I was basically in one gear the whole time and that gear was now longer going to behave itself. Clunk.
I thumbed into a lower gear and stood out the saddle to push up the hill. Pain. A long, sudden pain pulled down my quad into my knee. That would be a pulled muscle then. Less than 20km down and now with gear and leg problems, there was nothing to do… But push on.
We nipped into Carlisle just long enough to stock up on food for the day and for my back wheel to get stuck in a drain cover (why!?) We hastily swallowed snacks outside the shop and then hopped back on our bikes. We pushed on.
Welcome to Scotland! We stopped for a quick photo of the signpost next to the Gretna Green marriage hotel. A signpost opposite pointed out that we were closer to
London than John O’Groats. Still so many miles to go. We pushed on.
We stopped for a humus sandwich picnic down by the coast. A white washed cottage nearby was called Skiddaw’s View, very appropriately as the land faced over the Solway Firth towards the blue, whale shaped outline of the Lake District peaks. We pushed on.
I cycled in a vest top, enjoying the warmth all the more after so many days of rain. We took turns punching the wind as we followed the road past tiny village, hay bales and highland cows. We ate lots of sugary things to keep our legs going and pushed on.
I love the views. You can see for miles and miles. There are mountains in the background and lush green fields full of cows and hay bales in the fore. The road winds up the hill to reveal a new vista: cottages, a farmhouse and a new blue line of mountains in the distance. Where is that? How far is that?
We’d been cycling for just over seven hours by the time we pulled into the campsite. We’d been on the road all day and arrived at the reception with just half an hour to spare.
“Ah, yes, you have post!” The man handed over my neat package, containing six pairs of lenses and two small chocolate bars. We stopped. And then we ate.