Day 10: 199km, hello John O’Groats!
Had to be a big day, lots of miles to get there before dark. Naturally, with so much importance on getting a good early start, I overslept again. Most irregular…
I had been a bit concerned about how much distance I had to cover, but had a brief conversation with a guy in the gents at the campsite the night before, who assured me that ‘a man of my calibre’ wouldn’t have a problem with it. Quite how he knew all this from merely peeing next to me I don’t know, but I took I to heart and cracked on making good miles and pace all day.
Couple of killer hills, but great free-wheeling down the descents to match, including one that got my speed up to 80kph, which is pretty fast for a fully loaded touring bike, and I found myself instinctively tightening my crash helmet half way down..
After reaching the 150km mark I decided to stop for tea and scones to fix me up for the last 50k push. Very nice they were too. As I was about to leave one of the other customers walked out and as he went past turned to me and very quietly said “if you’d tried harder at school you could have bought yourself a car”. Possibly the funniest thing I’ve heard all week.
Then it all went wrong. Spokes breaking make a very distinctive noise, and coupled with the fact your wheel is then immediately a different shape, it’s quite obvious when its happened. I was not impressed, so close to being finished. Unfortunately, unlike the last one, this spoke had broken on the freewheel side of my rear wheel, and I didn’t have any of the tools needed to remove the freewheel. So I laid out every tool I did have along the road side, took everything else on the wheel to pieces, and looked at it all for a while, searching for a combination of inappropriate tools that would do the job. I then reached the conclusion that I was far more likely to destroy the rest of my wheel and tools by trying it with the wrong tools, so I packed everything up, and went to catch the next train home…
So having removed the remains of the broken spoke and straightened the wheel out as best I could, which meant it would go round, but was still well out of shape and I couldn’t use my rear brakes. I was officially in ‘ limp mode’ for the remaining 50k, like Dean Roberts trying to drive his fiancée’s Freelander home after blowing up the engine.
A very slow and uncomfortable few hours followed, along a random back road through fields of huge wind turbines and hundreds of sheep. All quite surreal. At about 9.30 I limped into a small town called John O’Groats. Completely deserted. Bar closed, cafe closed, shop closed. A solitary sign to match that at Lands End was the only significant mark that it was the end. Even then, if I’d had signal I would have Googled it just to be sure… As there was no one around to take my picture I got a quick snap of Claud by the sign, went and pitched my tent in a very windy field, cooked my best pasta pesto mix, drunk my two victory beers, checked my total mileage of 1662km, decided it was far too much to do in 10 days, and went to sleep wearing all my clothes in my cold little tent. Done 😊