Days 10 and 11 from the Lake District to Loch Lomond, and some roadie tips

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Days 10 and 11 from the Lake District to Loch Lomond, and some roadie tips

– Follow Alison’s stories of what it’s like to be the back-up and support here, as she reports back with a daily MAMILgram (that’s Middle-Aged-Men-In-Lycra):

Day Eleven – Moffat to Loch Lomond (81 miles)

Today the cyclists were joined by a third rider – Nigel Williams, a cycling friend of Derek’s. Meeting in the hotel, they rejoined the road from Moffat to Glasgow, starting with a climb for the first 15 miles.

Then, turning towards Glasgow, from where the route is downhill all the way, they reached Hamilton, on the outskirts of Glasgow and moved into ‘urban cycling’ mode. At Cambuslang they went onto a special cycle path which took them all the way along the river Clyde through the centre of Glasgow, and they stayed on these thoughtfully landscaped and very well maintained cycle-paths all the way to Loch Lomond. There was even street art and a modern sculpture to admire; ‘Bankies Bike’ by John Crosby, commissioned to promote safe cycling in Clydebank.

They stopped for lunch in the centre of Glasgow on Glasgow Green, a much-loved green space in the heart of Glasgow.

Neil and Derek got to Loch Lomond about 5.30, Nigel having had a bike malfunction, just a mile before the end. He had been riding along, when, all of a sudden, there was a loud clunk and the freewheel lock on the rear hub of his bike broke, which meant he could no longer pedal. Searching for a physical parallel, I am told it’s a like your hip giving out when running. They set him up in a pub in Balloch before deploying the recovery vehicle (me) to go and pick him up. The first time my services have been called upon.

Loch Lomond was looking very peaceful; the water was calm and blue. But this summer, after so many lockdowns and an understandable desire to be ‘out and doing’, this has been the site of some terrible water accidents. Those sailing or swimming, often for the first time, have been unprepared for the sheer difficulty of managing craft – and just how cold deep water can be. Better signage is being proposed, but the dangers to the inexperienced of venturing out on unfamiliar water need stressing. It was all looking so benign in the sunshine.

As the driver, following behind, the city of Glasgow arrives suddenly, looks compact and satisfyingly-shaped. The biking community is well established and newly retired from his legal career, Derek cycles (often with Nigel) at least three times a week. With the sun shining, and my sudden realisation of how close all parts of the city are to open countryside, this lifestyle looks very tempting.

Tomorrow, day 12, is a rest day at the home of Derek and his wife Linda, who will be joining us for the last few days of the ride.

Day Ten – Keswick to Moffat (74 miles) – welcome to Scotland!

It may be true, and that the journeys (or sections of them) are getting more strenuous, but at the end of the last two days Neil and Derek have commented that today ‘was the hardest day so far’. Or maybe they are getting tired. But still they are still on schedule, and their cyclists’ tan is certainly developing. Both have particularly brown knees.

The 15 miles of consistent climb out of Keswick was hard going. And although after that they began a long descent down into Carlisle, and on a ‘B’ road, the road-surface was very rough which made the going tough. In all today they climbed 1,010m, used 4,170 calories each and covered 74 miles.

Carlisle has a terrific castle (and great peanut millionaire shortbread). The cathedral (where Sir Walter Scott got married to a woman he had met only three weeks before) has a most attractive ceiling, blue with gold stars.

We entered Scotland at Gretna Green and had a picnic on the lawns behind the Visitors Centre (which was extremely busy).

There was an unusual sculpture of a man and woman’s arms under which they posed for a photograph. It reminded me of something rather similar in Baghdad, featuring Sadam Hussein’s arms – except with more manicured nails.

Neil mended his second slow puncture of the day.

After leaving them I passed Lockerbie and made a slight detour to see the garden of remembrance for the 270 victims of the PanAm plane crash there in 1988, which my mother-in-law had said was very well managed. The victims’ names are engraved, in alphabetical order, on a stone frieze at the back of the garden – passengers, crew and Lockerbie residents, side by side. But the space has since been personalised with individual plaques for some of those killed, particularly the US citizens. So many killed on one day, many of them youngsters, presumably returning home for Christmas.

Looking beyond the garden of remembrance, which must then have been on the edge of the cemetery, one sees all the graves of those who have died since; the varied dates of death suddenly normalising. But it’s worth noting that 25 years’ of natural deaths have racked up a similar total to what happened on one single evening. This was an atrocity of unforgettable proportions.

Day Twelve – rest day at Loch Lomond

In place of a blog, on our second rest day I thought I’d share some tips on being roadie – or SatBav as our friend Mel termed me.

Firstly, it’s more tiring than you might think. Driving between pre-arranged coordinates by specific times was constantly frustrated by roads being closed, and having to improvise. Take a turning other than the one satnav recommends, and it keeps steering you back to where you went wrong.

To support Neil and Derek and donate to their causes please visit their fundraising page:

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Take a printed map. Even if you have long relied on satnav alone, a printed map is invaluable. It’s easier to consult, does not need charging – and much bigger than your phone.

Arrange to meet in unbusy places. Deciding to meet for coffee outside a key attraction is straightforward if you are on a bicycle but it can take ages for drivers to find somewhere to park and walk. If the cyclists are likely to be longing for a decent coffee, research where you can do so and still keep an eye on the bikes. National Trust cafes (there is usually sitting-space outside) and cathedral coffee shops (cloisters particularly useful) are havens. Double-check the postcodes – in rural areas these cover huge spaces.

Lunch and snacks are important, and obviously you can carry more than the cyclists. Take tinfoil and carrying bags for them to carry a couple of rolls without mishap (and so they have something to eat if you fail to find each other).

As support-vehicle you are on a UK road trip, so do your research about the route. I did not drive along behind the cyclists (too annoying for other traffic) but took in a number of friends, relatives and historic houses. Reconnecting was lovely and you become very aware of the changing geography as you travel. So travelling through both Cornwall and Lancashire in such close time was quite startling.

Dinner is important. We found people interested and inclined to sponsor once they heard more. A great opportunity if you are raising money for a good cause.

Disasters strike suddenly and need immediate action. Leave your phone on at all times (recharnging needs to be a priority) and arrange a way of connecting that you will check every half an hour. We had a Whatsapp group between me and the cyclists but agreed urgent messages would be sent by text. We did not need this until Day 11, but the system worked.

Find out more about Neil and Derek’s cycling challenge from Land’s End to John o’Groats on our dedicated web page HERE.