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LE-JOG: Land's End to John o' Groats
Part 3 
By David Lomax

What happens if a complete (well almost) mountain bike novice decides to ride Lands End to John o' Groats off road or bust? The butt busting epic continues in this third episode.

I'm going through changes...
Nothing like a day off to brighten your spirits! A local bike shop kindly provided replacement tubes for Julies puncture fest on the way into Bristol, and a long lie in provided a heavenly respite from the dreaded cycling. I have never been a TV watcher (I don't even own one) but I was amazed to find myself diligently watching a Cricket match on TV by late morning and showing a genuine interest in the rules. I had expected the journey to change me in some ways, but I don't think this was strictly what I had in mind! 

A civilised evening at a Tapas Bar followed by some live music topped off a perfectly relaxed day and left Julie wondering why there weren't any good looking guys in Bristol. It left me wondering why she was wondering about why there weren�t any good-looking guys in Bristol. Surely our summer 'holiday' wasn't adversely affecting our relationship'A gentle questioning session later that night did show some reservations regarding the physical challenge ahead (not dissimilar to my own!) but didn't seem to involve plans to run away or do anything unpleasant to me with a spare spoke. Life was seemingly all right again, and I marvelled at my own ability to be so short sighted and changeable.

Early the next day during another perfectly cool and clean early morning start I slipped on my freshly washed cycling kit and looked idly at the maps for the day, whilst marvelling at my shorts new found ability to bend whilst feeling soft and smooth. A double take! I looked again. After the silent prayers of thanks had taken place I casually mentioned to Julie that our days riding had been significantly shortened by MY genius decision to extend our last days riding into Bristol (I told you I was short sighted and changeable). The look she gave me said it all really, I think it was mostly pity, but she topped it off by handing me the days maps (an event unheard of since my minor faux pas in Cornwall') and telling me to get on with it. 

I rode up an old shortcut I remembered from my dim and distant past of living in Bristol and marvelled at how beautiful the city was. I had forgotten, and was lost in a world of reminiscing and breathing hard as we climbed out of the valley up onto the ridge that formed the outskirts of town. Perhaps I spent a little too long reminiscing and not enough time map reading but the exit from the suburbs wasn't quite as smooth as I had anticipated, those pesky 1:50000 maps had almost done for me again. Luckily I managed to salvage the route without too many cock-ups or extra Km's and led us out and northwards towards the Severn Bridge.

An early food stop on the flood plains alongside the river led us to some intriguing ruins where once a ferry clearly plied its trade across the treacherous flowing waters. The area was derelict and downtrodden and was overshadowed by the huge southern buttress of the Severn Bridge towering over us. For me the next thirty minutes were really cool. Being an engineer and having crossed the bridge on a motorbike and in a car many times it was excellent to wander over on the cycle path, stop, and marvel at the slightly hazy view and the huge height of the road over the rivers surface (We just don't build stuff like this any more. There are 1-bed flats in my hometown of Manchester smaller than a single granite block on those supporting towers!).

Not being too keen on heights we soon moved on and rolled off the other end of the structure feeling warm and contented by our lazy flat days riding.

A mere 30km into the day and feeling just a little frisky due to my severe lack of extreme testing exercise over the past 36 hours I began to amuse myself in the best way a man can. NO, not like that! But, by annoying Julie. As she rode along I would ride up stealthily (or so I imagined) behind her and pinch her bum. Oh, how I laughed, GOD I was funny. Well, for a short while anyway until somehow whilst in the middle of a stealth pinch I mistimed a small dimple in the road, whipped my bars around 90 degrees and began eating gravel'

OH, how Julie laughed! Cow. No sympathy to be had there then. I believe the technical term is a, 'self inflicted wound'. Either way my left hand suffered quite badly and my thumb took over 6 months to heal properly. Top nob marks there then!

The rest of the day passed easily as we drifted through commuter belt millionaire horse based smallholdings and beautiful villages. Initial food fears were confirmed after we failed to find a single pub serving food after 3:30pm, but all was well as yet another top pie shop appeared in the nick of time and stopped too many stomach rumblings. Life was good, the sun was hot, and I had eaten precisely zero soda farls for nearly 48 hours, I was seriously hoping for a return to normal bowel operation if I could just sustain the current situation for a day or two more. A short 57km day on top of a day's break was amazing and left us wondering what it would have been like halving our regular 100km daily mileage and sampling the local fayres a little more frequently. Undoubtedly excellent, but too costly on money and time for our tastes we decided. It's funny how two days of ease removes the painful memories'

 

Our target for the day was Abergavenny, gateway to the Brecon Beacons and the off road wilderness we had both secretly been dreading. An easy arrival at around 5pm ended our spell of contented happiness as we soon realised what a god-awful place we had booked ourselves into, it was one of the most expensive stops on the trip and by far the worst quality. As Julie noted in the diary, '1st impressions count and first impressions of Abergavenny were BAD!, a locked door, broken shower, no soap, 1964 TV, screaming kids, and revving dirt bikes were some of the delights we suffered that evening, but in truth not even the appallingly bad takeaway could really squash the pleasant relaxed feeling we both had regarding the past few days. Oh yes, the break had been nice'.

30 mins after an unordered greasy death breakfast arrived at our table, (which we skillfully avoided by repeated trips to the cereal section, I had now graduated onto 6 single portions of Alpen packs a day if I could get them) we were riding out of Abergavenny looking forward to a MONSTER day. We knew it would be a real killer but we felt ready. Next Page>

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Print Text! the whole feature in text only form.





Want to read another multi day Epic story? The Lakeland Loop (Off Site Link).

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